Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Busy Day in the Port of Jakarta

On the way to mission sites in Indonesia, we made a quick stop in the port of Jakarta. We’re here for only a few hours, but the ship is a blur of activity. We contributed to the busyness of this harbor as smaller boats ferried supplies for our mission, Indonesian translators, more than two dozen media representatives, our first patients, and Marsekal Mudo Manano, the Surgeon General of Indonesia. Just another ho-hum day on the ship…

We took on more than fifty pallets of pharmaceuticals, so all pharmacy hands were on deck to receive them. For professionals whose physical activity at work is generally limited to swatting pills from one surface to another, this was a heavy lifting day, even with the help of the ship’s staff. HOPE pharmacist John Nett sank into his chair at lunch, looking like he’d been hit by a forklift. After reviving himself with Navy chow, he commented on the mountains of boxes that had arrived. He said that the content of most of the boxes is self evident - “Amoxicillin is Amoxicillin” - but some boxes have unfamiliar graphics, and are labeled in Indonesian. Fortunately, more than sixty translators from an organization called “Hope Worldwide” also boarded the ship today, so they will be helpful in ways other than their obvious importance to patient-doctor communications.

Meanwhile Navy PAO Lt. Cmdr Mark Callero welcomed more than two dozen media representatives bearing notebooks and major camera equipment. It was USNS Mercy’s chance to announce its arrival in Indonesia, and to explain our mission. Representing our partner nation, the Surgeon General of Indonesia honored us with a visit, and he and Commander, Pacific Partnership 2010, Capt Lisa M. Franchetti, talked about the importance of partnerships between nations, especially as it relates to preparedness for disaster relief. Project HOPE was one of the humanitarian organizations that responded to the Tsunami of 2006.

From a high deck, I saw a small girl in a bright yellow dress lifted from one of the boats, so I knew one of our first patients had arrived. I raced down two flights of stairs, just in time to see the child arrive in our receiving area, holding her aunt’s hand. As they sat through some paperwork, I raised my camera and, with sign language, asked the aunt if I could take some photographs. She smiled her consent. I learned that Santi has very little vision, a result of congenital cataracts. How exciting to think that with some very routine surgery, this child will see the world in a new and wonderful way.

Thanks for your interest in Project HOPE -- Kathryn Allen, HOPE Public Affairs Officer

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