Friday, August 20, 2010

Volunteers Prepare for Patients in Colombia

The Colombian coast was a line of green on the horizon, sandwiched between two plates of steel-gray clouds and water. A smattering of islands punctuated the water to our port side. As I gazed toward the lights of Covenas onshore, a huge S of lightning snaked across the morning sky. Drops of rain began to speckle the deck.

These weather conditions waylaid the morning’s helicopter launch, but not for long. The choppers bore the Continuing Promise advance team to scout the conditions for the new Med Site 1 in Covenas. Project HOPE team member Dr. Michael Polifka was part of this team.

Michael reported that the daily procedure would be much the same as it had been for Haiti. There will be buses to take us from the helicopter- and boat landing zones (HLZ and BLZ, respectively) to the site each morning. The site itself is a walled school compound like the Lycée in Porte de Paix.

The Continuing Promise mission will be far more publicized to the local population than it was in Haiti. The school walls are already adorned with a banner reading “Promesa Continua 2010.”

Michael and others on the advance team spent the day organizing the site, allocating classrooms for the pharmacy, optometry clinic, etc. They made such progress that surgeons were able to begin screening patients to board the Iwo Jima. Michael even examined one patient himself, a 19-year-old man who underwent a chest x-ray and was diagnosed with a hernia.

At the nightly confirmation brief, military officials warned us not to be complacent based on what we’d seen in Haiti. Colombia will offer a widely different set of conditions.

“There are mosquitoes, bats, rabid dogs, and poisonous snakes,” said Captain Tanner. “Can’t forget about the snakes.”

After the team meeting, Michael and Dr. Manish Oza discussed tomorrow, when more HOPE volunteers will go to Med Site 1.

“It will be what it will be,” said Michael.

Manish nodded resolutely. “We’ll find out tomorrow.”

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and PAO, Eric Campbell

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