In addition to seeing patients in the field and working on the hospital ship USNS Mercy, a big portion of Project HOPE’s role on this mission is working alongside the military to ensure optimal. This means that when we’re underway (i.e., en route to our next destination - Papua New Guinea), we are constantly learning and preparing for the next step. From abandon ship drills to culture education seminars, there is never a dull moment.
One of the more exciting drills was the mass casualty drill. The ship’s nursing department simulated a disaster scenario to which the Mercy had to respond. The scenario was that a boat carrying 35 refugees caught fire, suffered minor explosions and started to sink. This simulation involved the whole ship, ensuring that in a real emergency situation everyone knows his/her role and will be prepared. From the search and rescue teams to the medical teams to the public affairs department, everyone was on alert.
My day started with HOPE volunteer Rose Wilson, a pediatric nurse from Melbourne, Australia participating in her third Pacific Partnership mission. I watched as she and the other ‘victims’ congregated in the casualty receiving area of the ship to get their roles assigned and get made up. The nursing department came prepared with simulation kits and props. When it was time to begin the drill, the ship was teeming with severe sunburns, various shrapnel wounds and even one wayward eyeball!
Project HOPE volunteers Alexa Koenig, Kim Kancir and Caitlin Mateer and Project HOPE Volunteer Programs Specialist Kenly Flanigan were each assigned different victims and areas. So I spent the rest of the drill tracking them and their patients. I watched Alexa receive and treat a young boy (played by a guy on the ship) with a shrapnel wound to the abdomen. Kenly triaged a woman (played by another guy on the ship) with tissue burns on her arm. Rose played a man who had been separated from his family and didn’t speak English, making communication with the medical teams difficult.
While there were many times during the drill that I was laughing, the seriousness of it did not escape me. I was amazed at how each person playing a victim committed to his or her role. The whole drill really would not have been effective if this hadn’t been the case.
Kenly Flanigan agreed, saying “It was exciting to be a part of the drill and see how well the coordination between and planning by the military and NGOs was executed impeccably.”
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