“We all have different experiences even at the same place and at the same time,” says Dr. Mary Burry when speaking about participating in humanitarian missions around the world with her husband Dr. Tom Hoggard. The couple is now volunteering on their first mission with Project HOPE serving in Nicaragua and Panama as part of Continuing Promise 2010.
International patient care is not unique to Dr. Burry. A physician from Portland, Oregon, she has worked with disaster relief teams in Somalia, Albania, Turkey, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Honduras, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Iraq. “What is unique about this mission is working with the military," she says. "This is the first time I have been a part of it. I have never lived on a ship.”
Mary, along with the other providers, have found that working with the military and people from so many different countries has been a great experience in seeing how things operate and the exchange of knowledge.
"I have a lot of respect for what the Marines and Navy personnel have to do below decks on this ship to keep this mission going," she says. “I am also impressed with Commodore Negus and how much he really believes in this mission. Arranging all this so that we can give care is amazing plus all the political stuff that goes into it . It has been an eye opener.”
As with all the international work Mary has done, the patients always make a personal impact on her life. Sunday she saw a young patient, about 4-years-old, with an immune skin disease that covered his entire body. He has been suffering with it for about a year now.
“The boy had squinting eyes because he was so uncomfortable. His skin looked like it had been scalded. It is very complicated and we were able to give him therapy for the first time. His condition is treatable with medications that that have here in Panama,” she says. Through an interpreter, Dr. Burry wrote out very complex instructions for the aunt who was taking care of the boy. "Now we can only hope that the aunt will follow through on the therapy."
With her one-month volunteer mission nearing its completion, Dr. Burry is contemplating re-adapting to home. "One of the hardest times for me was when I was in Somalia and starving people were before me everyday. One woman handed me her baby and said something. The interpreter said that four of her other children had died, and this is the only one living, and how was I going to help."
Dr. Burry returned to the States from that mission at Christmas time. "Walking around the hotel and seeing all that was there and a short distance away people were dying of starvation was very difficult," she says.
"The re-entry phenomenon is just difficult," she adds. "We go home and the garage door opens from the car, and we walk into the house and have nice long hot shower. We hop on a plane and are transported in a few hours to a different planet.”
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