Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Ah, Club Med: exotic locations, sparkling ocean water, comfy beds, and all meals and drinks included. Nothing against hedonistic pleasures, most of us have done our share of beach time. But here on the USNS Mercy? The hot ticket is to Club MEDCAP.

We pause here for yet another acronym debriefing A MEDCAP is a Medical Civil Action Program, and in straight talk, that means that lots of medical providers camp out for a day, three days, or in some cases, a week in one place and set up shop. Then hundreds or thousands of people show up, because for many of them, it’s the equivalent of the Mayo Clinic coming to town.

While anchored near Ternate, six Project HOPE volunteers participated in two different MEDCAPs. Three worked a 5-day MEDCAP in Moratai: Dawn Horowitz, Brian Cox and April Krantz. Alan Jamison, Vanessa Doorasamy and Randy Roark did a 7-day encampment in Jailolo.

All six volunteers worked at a pace unheard of in most American settings, many seeing more than one hundred patients a day. It seems impossible, but when people have waited hours or days to see a doctor you just do what you have to do. At the end of the day, our volunteer doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are beat, and ready to check into Club MEDCAP.

Chow at the Club? A dizzying array of choices, if you don’t mind your food entombed in plastic, and brown cardboard. MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat are available three times a day. Meat loaf for breakfast, anyone? Military intelligence has designed nifty little heaters for the food that are activated by just a few ounces of water, but a lot of people just dive into the candy, crackers, cheese whiz and peanut butter that require no technology. Did you know that there is an iPhone app to let diners know which treats are included in each MRE?

(In full disclosure, it is true that local food is often foraged, and there are more hits than misses there.) After dinner, and maybe a rousing game of gin, our intrepid volunteers are ready to turn in. To get a feel for the accommodations, remember the worst pullout couch you ever slept on. Imagine it one-third the width, and without a mattress. The middle support bar that will press against your spine remains. Then cut some bamboo poles to stretch the mosquito over it. Add a sheet and you are good to go until the cock crows.

We’ll spare you the details of la toilette. Let’s just say there are no six-jet showers, and a bucket of water is provided for flushing.

Our volunteers come home (did I just call a Navy ship ‘home’?) and their rack in berthing suddenly looks like a suite at the Waldorf. They are grizzled, gritty and ready for a long, hot shower. But they are beaming from the experience, and all they want to know is, “Am I scheduled for the next MEDCAP?”

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

1 comment:

  1. Bonnie J BurchfieldJuly 28, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    It is so nice to see my dad after so many weeks. Thanks for posting on the blog. We love reading about the adventures. We can't wait to hear the stories my dad, Alan Jamison, will tell.