Monday, July 19, 2010

Caring for Kids Aboard the USNS Mercy

Every bed is filled in the pediatric ward on the USNS Mercy today, or maybe I should say every bed is assigned. Walking through the ward, I had to weave between two boys playing soccer with a beach ball, a gaggle of girls coloring at a low table, and parents walking and jostling crying children. I wanted to check on Santi, our little girl in the yellow dress who boarded in Jakarta to have cataracts removed. Pediatric ICU nurse and HOPE volunteer Ellen Fernando guided me to Santi’s bed, telling me along the way that Santi is picking up English at lightening speed. Santi smiled when we crouched down to speak to her, and when prompted, proudly counted to ten in English. “What is your name?” she then asked me.

“Nama Saya Kathryn,” I said, and was rewarded with another smile. “The doctors will check on the vision improvement in Santi’s left eye within the next few days,” said Ellen, “And then make a decision about doing surgery on her right eye.”

We then stop by another part of the ward so Ellen can say good-bye to Bobitime; a young boy who had a hemangioma removed from his arm yesterday, and is being discharged. Santi was our first hospital patient at this stop, Bobitime is our first off.

Ellen, a native of the Philippines, moved to New York City when she was ten and always knew she would be a nurse. After getting her bachelors of science in nursing, she tested for and received her certification in pediatric critical care. She works at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at Columbia/New York Presbyterian in New York City, but has somehow squeezed in travel to six countries in 2010, with visits to three more scheduled before the end of the year. She started looking for international mission opportunities after Haiti, and her first deployment was with Operation Smile. She wasn’t sure her supervisor would be amenable to her five-week mission with Project HOPE, but was surprised to be told, “You have to do it.”

“Living on the ship has been challenging,” Ellen says. “I didn’t know anything about the military before.” Then she paused to glance over at Santi, resting nearby. “But get me in a room of sick kids, and you’d better get out of my way. This is where I feel most at home.”

Like many of our Project HOPE volunteers, Ellen is continuing to study with an eye on a career in global medical care. She’s beginning a double degree at New York University in the fall and when finished, she’ll be both a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and have a masters in Global Public Health. It seems a lot of people all over the world will need to stay out of Ellen’s way.

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

1 comment:

  1. My daughter, an occupational Therapist will be boarding the ship on Aug 6th at Darwin. she is a native of Australia, so I hope you will get to meet her.
    Rossie Steele