Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Providing Care in Moratai

When three of our first-time Project HOPE volunteers boarded the USNS Mercy on July 3rd, they had no idea that they would also be spending three nights on a much smaller Australian boat, traveling to Moratai, Indonesia. Our Australian partners provided all that was necessary to support the Moratai MEDCAP team, including transportation, lodging and meals. Although unconfirmed by independent sources, the HOPE team claims that Kiwi amenities included a chef that served roast lamb, garlic cream prawns, fresh fruit salad and ten different marinates for barbecue.

There was another charming aspect to the voyage that made up for our volunteers sleeping in what was essentially a shipping container or out on deck in the rain. Instead the traditional Navy reveille each morning, all MEDCAP providers were summoned each morning with the announcement, “Wakey, Wakey, time for breakfast!”

Among those sleeping in the converted shipping container was HOPE’s Dr. April Kranz. April worked in a Mayan Village in Belize during her fourth year of medical school, and it was there her passion was ignited for international medicine. During her first Project HOPE mission, April has seen patients in the ship’s sick call, and worked on one day MEDCAPs. But she found her foray to Moratai most exciting. “We saw a lot of lumps and bumps,” she said, “but I also saw a case that a really cool local doctor help me diagnose as probable leprosy, not something I’m likely to see at my hospital in California.”

Sleeping out on the deck was Brian Cox, who after six years of training, is just weeks away from being a full-fledged pharmacist. It seems the pharmacists on this mission work harder than anyone, because virtually every patient seen by every provider stops by the field pharmacy before leaving. In Moratai, Brian worked alongside two Indonesian pharmacists and a Navy technician to fill approximately 1,000 prescriptions a day. If Brian’s plans for the future pan out, he’ll be wearing a US Public Health Service uniform, working to promote the health of American Indians.

Dawn Horowitz is also completing professional requirements for an advanced degree on this mission, that of a nurse practitioner (FNP.) “We’ve seen a lot of untreated broken bones,” says Dawn. “People fall out of trees while harvesting coconuts, and without access to appropriate treatment, they suffer a deformity for the rest of their life. These remote areas present a huge challenge for health care.”

“What we do medically during a three-day encampment is limited,” says April, a doctor who plans a career in international medicine. “We have to keep remembering that the MEDCAPs are just one small piece of a broader initiative to build infrastructure and relationships.”

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

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