Thursday, August 28, 2008

Project HOPE Volunteers and the U.S. Navy Work Together to Provide Care

An Inspiring Story from the USNS Mercy

While the USNS Mercy has been in Papua New Guinea the Project HOPE volunteer health care providers have seen thousands of patients, most in need of the basic of health care. However, the volunteers also see patients whose health has been ailing for many years but they haven’t had any means of getting treatment. An example of such a patient was Mary.
About 5 years ago, 44 year old Mary noticed a small nodule near the nipple of her left breast. Because she and her family had no financial resources and extremely limited medical options, she stoically watched as the nodule grew and grew. Her breast became heavy and enlarged to at least the size of a cantaloupe. The skin became eroded and began to bleed. The resultant anemia left her little strength to care for her family, including her husband and four children. She never saw a doctor because she felt that she could never receive treatment.
Recently however, she finally did seek medical attention at a local hospital. The doctors there told her that the USNS Mercy was due to arrive in port shortly, and that she should see if the doctors on board could help her. She was seen in surgical screening clinic and was referred to the ship for admittance the next day. She was evaluated and other than having a blood count of 22 (normal being from 35 to 48), she was found to be in reasonably good health and able to tolerate surgery. She and her husband, who had come on board to assist with her care, agreed for her to undergo a mastectomy which was performed after several units of blood were transfused. Led by Project Hope surgeon Ivan Shulman, along with Indian Naval surgeon Amitabh Mohan and US Naval Hospital – San Diego surgical resident Matthew Tadlock operated together to safely remove her breast which weighed 1.5 kg in an uncomplicated and timely surgery. Her post-operative recovery has been dramatic and today she feels full of hope, literally with a lightness that she has not experienced for many years.
When asked if she was afraid or scared of what was going to happen to her, she simply smiled, took her surgeon’s hand, looked directly into his eyes, and said “No, I wasn’t.”

***First name of the patient has been changed and last name omitted to protect the patient’s privacy.

Special thanks to our Special Projects Team for sharing this story with us.

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