Posted By: Bonnie Hudlet on October 6, 2010

Labels: Panama , Humanitarian Aid, Volunteers

There was a lot of excitement on the ship today! The President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli came aboard the USS Iwo Jima. He was accompanied by his Vice-President Juan Carlos Varela, as well as U.S. ambassador to Panama, Phyllis M. Powers and Panama's Minister of Health, Franklin Vergara.

When the president walked into the hospital ward, he was greeted by Project HOPE volunteer nurse Anne Borden. He shook her hand, and offered her his thanks.

The Distinguished Visitors or DV visits as the Navy calls them, were quite exciting for the Panamanian patients onboard the ship. It meant so much to them to meet their president.

One particular patient, who was onboard for a cataract surgery had trouble seeing the president as he passed through her ward. Anne told me the patient so wanted to see the president, but she would be able to see him a lot better the following day after her scheduled cataract surgery.

Hearing this story, I approached one of the guards who was escorting the DVs and asked him if there was any way we might be able to take this patient to meet the President. He said that he would check and took off down the hall to talk with the leaders. I went back to Anne and the patient to bring them at least to the door of the ward.

The guard came back and asked if we could walk down to the visitors, a short way down the hall. Anne and I walked with the woman, and the guard even offered her his arm, but she could not see his arm.

That sweet woman was so excited. She not only got the chance to shake the President’s and VP’s hands, but to really talk with them! She also met the surgeon who would be performing her surgery the next day.

This was the highlight of my day and made the long wait in the ward for the photo opportunity well worth it. Seeing the President was exciting, but being able to give the patient an experience she will never forget, an experience she will surely share with her family and friends, truly made me feel as though I was helping in some small way. I only hope someday this patient will be able to meet the president again and see him clearly.

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