Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Surgical Patients Thankful

After extensive patient screening, 54 Colombians were chosen to take onboard the the USS Iwo Jima for surgery. Today, in the ship’s ward, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of them.

Leonore del Risco is an elderly resident of Coveñas. Her husband, José Antonio Carta, is scheduled to have a long-existing hernia removed tomorrow. “It’s amazing that everyone is taking care of us (so well). We did not expect everyone to be so friendly and attentive,” said Señora del Risco, speaking through Navy LS2(AW) Liseth Perez.

Señora del Risco lives with José Antonio and their 19-year-old granddaughter. The couple’s five children have long since moved away. To stave off the poverty that afflicts many Colombians, Señora del Risco works as a postal carrier, delivering letters on foot in blistering heat. Even so, she makes below the Colombian minimum wage. Where the expected salary is 500 pesos a week, she receives 350.

Still, she reasons, it’s better than nothing. She also looks to her four sons and daughter for support. Her eldest son, a security guard in Cartagena, is the main breadwinner. “I thank God that at least I have a job, and a meal on the table every day,” Señora del Risco said.

Her thanks seemed deeply heartfelt. Indeed, the unemployment rate for Colombians is 11.8 percent. She was also grateful to live in Coveñas, which she described as a “jewel.” The town has been spared the violence that persists in some regions. The weather is also temperate, meaning less risk of the floods that have taken lives elsewhere in the country.

The USS Iwo Jima continues to perform life-altering procedures for people just like Señor Carta and Señora del Risco. Stories like theirs remind us of the realities of life far away from the prosperity we Americans enjoy.

This evening at the landing zone, the boat crew made the first dry LCU landing. Team members were able to triumphantly step aboard the transport without wetting their feet. This is an historic moment for everyone who waded ashore day after day in Haiti.

Project HOPE volunteer Matya Cooksey reported that the activities at on shore clinic today went as expected. Site officials found a way to improve efficiency by thwarting “swooners.” Some townsfolk pretend faintness or seizures to gain entrance to the site faster. “If you swoon, you can go to the local hospital, or you can get back in line,” said Matya.

These cases show that when care is limited, some will take unusual measures to receive medical care. One more obstacle has been dealt with in our mission to help the people of Colombia.

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and PAO, Eric Campbell

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