Volunteers onboard the USNS Comfort completed the first leg of the Continuing Promise 2011 mission, helping to treat 13,796 patients, perform 211 surgeries and provide 2,249 educational contacts in Jamaica and Peru.
HOPE volunteer, Dr. Bruce Piccone, an Internal Medicine Physician from Philadelphia, was part of the successful medical team that included nine HOPE volunteers, U.S. military medical professionals, and doctors and nurses from other nongovernmental organizations.
During his time in Jamaica and Peru, Dr. Piccone estimates that he saw a total of 400 patients at four different sites. “It’s been an eye opener,” he says. “The patients I saw had diseases and conditions that were of a severity and duration I rarely saw in my practice. It’s painful to know that the people I saw with advanced Graves disease and goiters could have been treated with very inexpensive drugs, had they been seen early on and the drugs were available.” “There are simple, inexpensive solutions,” Bruce continues, “If only we could figure out how to implement them.”
“Take orthotics,” he continues. “Many people present with back and foot pain, and they are all wearing flip-flops. With proper shoes and orthotic shoe inserts, people can experience a great deal of relief.” Bruce was happy that he could provide splints for carpal tunnel, medication for infection and pain, referrals to local providers, and provide information and reassurance to many patients. But the episodic nature of the encounters has set in motion his entrepreneurial spirit. I’m challenged by this experience to find a way to donate my time to make more sustainable change…maybe find a hospital that needs dedicated hematology training and consultation for an extended period of time.”
Dr. Piccone’s experience highlights one of the great advantages of volunteering through Project HOPE, which allows volunteers to make a commitment for as short as two weeks and as long as five months. Even a short-term mission often sparks a humanitarian idea or interest that is established and sustained long after the volunteer heads home.
“I’ve always known I’ve been blessed,” says Dr. Piccone. “But until you see the need of these people face-to-face, you really can’t fully appreciate what you have.”
“What will I do with this lesson?” he asks. “That’s the question I’m now challenged to answer.”
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