Thursday, May 14, 2009

Project HOPE Volunteers Experience Record Breaking Days and Technical Breakthroughs

Monday and Tuesday saw record-setting days at the clinics on shore and a technical breakthrough onboard Comfort, and were packed with special events. Where to begin?

The breakthrough was a video conference of a surgery on the Comfort that linked to doctors at Walter Reed. I’m told this is the first-ever ship-to-shore real-time video conference. There was only a 0.5 second delay between what the surgeon on Comfort was seeing and what the doctors at Walter Reed saw. This opens the door for some exciting possibilities. When the medical department on the ship needs a specialist who isn’t onboard, all they have to do is get the specialist to a video room. It will also make surgical screens at the mission clinical sites more efficient by allowing the doctors on the ship to “see” the candidates at the sites one minute, and still be able to get the OR the next minute to do surgery. This will cut down on a lot of the “dead” time getting from the ship to the clinic and back.

The special events – it’s Nurses’ Week. Our educators have been doing training with the Antigua Nurses Association and with student nurses. Many local nurses and students came aboard Comfort in the afternoon for a tour of the ship and some cake and ice cream on the mess deck, and then a group got together for a church service and opening ceremony last night.
Another special event was a visit from the Governor-General of Antigua & Barbuda – the Queen’s personal representative – as well as the Prime Minister and other high government officials. When they toured the ship, they greeted many of the patients by name. It’s a small island, after all!

And finally…the numbers. On Monday, our medical providers set a record for the number of patient encounters on the mission to date, and then on Tuesday broke the record. I didn’t get ashore either day, but I saw everyone come back in the evening, with faces that showed how pleased and proud they were of the work they’d accomplished…and they were tired! Same goes for the providers onboard. We have a total of 150 surgeries booked for the mission, so they are very busy, too! We sent a team by helo to Barbuda on Tuesday. The island has a population of only 1500, and we saw 500 of them that day. And…for the mission we passed the 100,000 health care encounter milestone yesterday.

So Continuing Promise 2009 is on a crescendo…looking to wrap up in Antigua & Barbuda this Friday on a high note!


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