Monday, April 20, 2009

Project HOPE Volunteers Continue Work in Haiti

(4-17-2009) Happy Friday Everyone

I got my first look yesterday at a clinic on the “beach” – at Cite Soleil – along with my first up-close look at a former First Lady. Since this isn’t the Washington Post, I won’t comment on her attire. What I got out of the event was that she, like me and many others, was surprised to learn there is such a diverse group of organizations working together. If you can believe it, I had the impression before embarking in Miami that there would be a small crew of Navy personnel supporting us Hopies. My first walk up the ramp from the pier disabused me of that notion.

On Wednesday, I went to a ceremony at which all the GIK (gifts in kind) were formally transferred to the land-based NGOs for distribution. It was held at the Main Port HLZ (helo landing zone), and four of our nurses – who will remain nameless – somehow hitched a ride. The rest of us got there on the Little Boat That Could. Anyway, the event itself was good for the publicity – here’s a shot of Project HOPE's Dave Eddy and the Commodore speaking with a member of the local press – and it was great to meet the people who do the work on the ground. I spoke with a man from Pittsburgh who, with his wife, moved to Haiti nine months ago and has been running an organization that distributes meals in the mountains two hours away from P-au-P. He said the 1.4 million meals he’s receiving will feed the people he serves for about 6-8 months.

I’ve been getting around to all the wards on the ship. On Tuesday, I hung out in “2 Aft” – the ward that’s the last stop for all patients before they’re discharged. Peggy Holt and Sandy Larson work the day shift on the port side, and Kelly Magee works days on the starboard side. They introduced me to their patients, and had fun taking pictures of them with their families, which I then gave to the Navy public affairs team for printing as souvenir cards. Here’s one of Sandy with Charles and his wife that Ensign Suorez prepared. The Navy took up the laboring oar to make these for all the patients, who really like them! BTW, Ensign Suorez was up until 2 a.m. last night processing images so that no one went home today without their family portrait. So kudos to him! You can see how happy Charles was to have had his surgery and to be going home soon.

FYI #1…Charles is a gregarious father of three beautiful children, referred for surgical services by the World Relief Organization after suffering for several years from osteomyelitis (bone infection) in his right fibula (lower leg), the result of a motor vehicle accident and an infection of the wound after the initial surgery. The Comfort surgical team drained the infection, replaced the infected screws in the bone and implanted antibiotic seeds. He hasn’t been able to work and support his family all this time. Now, he is full of hope to get back on his feet, literally.

FYI #2…Sandy hails from Austin, Texas, where she spent the last 25 years of her full-time career as an R.N. in ICU. She’s been on two short-term medical missions to Panama, and spent a month on the Mercy Ship while it was harbored in Monrovia, Liberia. “Now that I’m ‘kinda, sorta’ retired,” she says, “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to blend my desire to serve using my nursing skills with my love of adventure travel. I’m honored to serve on this ‘Continuing Promise 2009 Mission.’”

And now, back to our tour of the wards. By the time the patients get to “2 Aft” they will have spent at least two nights on the ship. On day 1 they arrive in “CASREC” – casualty receiving – and go through an admission process similar to any U.S. hospital. After leaving CASREC, the patients are taken down one deck and stay with their escort (usually a family member, but sometimes a guardian ad litem) in the “Comfort Inn” until it’s time for their surgery. (Only surgical patients come aboard.) After surgery, they go to the recovery ward, called PACU, and, if necessary, spend some time in ICU before going to 2 Aft and home. And that’s that!

Thanks for reading--Tom.

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