HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.
It’s been one week since our arrival in Vietnam. It's hot as expected, but so far an unbelievable experience.
Our first day was spent screening patients for surgery. Sixty plus patients were seen that day, with almost all needing surgery. Some could not be helped due to the right surgical equipment not being available, but this information does give us more indication on what we need to bring on the next mission.
Working side by side with the Vietnamese surgeons, we have completed seven total joint surgeries on the USNS Mercy and nine cases at Da Nang Ortho and Rehab Hospital. The Vietnamese surgeons are very skilled, but limited in supplies and implant options. In spite of this, they do a great job. I'll try never to complain about not having my favorite retractor again.
The people in town are very friendly despite the language barriers. Recently at dinner, we were approached by the people at the next table and asked if we needed help with the menu. The group had relatives in the States going to college and were excited to see Americans.
I was born and raised in Monte Plata, a province of the Dominican Republic where Project HOPE supports a maternal and child health clinic. Life was not easy for me growing up, but I made it into a university. Just a few semesters before completing my degree in arts in 2001, what I thought was a blessing came into my life. I found a partner, – a man whom I thought had good intentions toward me. Just one year later he became sick and confessed to me that he was HIV+.
In 2003, my partner passed away. That same year Project HOPE and the Clinica Orden de Malta in Monte Plata opened their doors to me. They were looking for someone who could act as an HIV counselor and could speak from her/his experience with the disease, but that maintained a positive attitude and good sense of humor.
Thanks to Teresa Narvaez, Project HOPE’s Country Director for the Dominican Republic, I received additional trainings. Today I can say, thanks to her, I do my job with a smile on my face.
- I work with pregnant women who are HIV+
- I host workshops and focus groups to speak about HIV prevention
- I visit community members who have been identified as HIV+
Now I am very happy because, although I have been living with HIV for more than 11 years, I am able to see life with optimism. I have been able to help many HIV+ patients and families – teaching them how to be healthy and be positive about living with their condition. You can live with HIV and be useful to others.
Mayer Tenenhaus, MD FACS is a volunteer surgeon on Pacific Partnership 2015. Dr. Tenenhaus is from from San Diego, where he works at UC SanDiego Medical Center. He is participating in Pacific Partnership 2015, currently in Da Nang, Vietnam. He and the other volunteer surgeons on this rotation are providing to patients in need.
What an incredible experience this has been, and it has only just begun.
I am humbled and in awe of the tireless efforts, skills, capabilities and compassion demonstrated by the Navy, Project HOPE, Pacific Partnership and all the incredible people who’ve worked so hard to establish, develop, facilitate and organize this unbelievable endeavor.
I can’t imagine how challenging, difficult and exhausting these efforts must be. The diplomatic, bureaucratic, planning and logistical demands are staggering...and yet here we are - countless individuals working together as colleagues and friends, all dedicated to the care of patients in dire need.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to see our patients. Their suffering is so evident. Their tragedies are overwhelming. It is heartwarming to be one of so many to be afforded the opportunity to help.
Today I’m told we examined more than 32 patients and have coordinated surgical plans for 29. We have so many more patients to review and examine in the coming days. There will be long days, and I am saddened I can’t stay longer and can’t treat more.
The physicians and health care providers at the Da Nang General Hospital have been wonderful to work with, graciously including us in the care of their patients. They have been so welcoming, professional and kind. It's truly an honor to work with them, and together we've been able to do a lot of great work.
The world truly becomes smaller, friendlier and a kinder place for all as a result of these Herculean efforts. I am truly honored to have been included and hope that I might participate again next year.
World Humanitarian Day 2015
On April 25th, 2015, tremors tore through the earth violently, changing the lives of the people of Nepal and surrounding areas forever. As buildings toppled, schools crumbled and families lost loved ones, those who could, sought safety and stability through evacuation in the tumultuous days following the quake. As the full impact of the disaster was still being felt, another group made preparations as well. Both locally and internationally, they took leave from jobs, made arrangements for family and childcare, packed survival kits, gathered supplies, and boarded planes heading directly into the heart of the disaster zone.
The term ‘humanitarian’ is a common one among non-profit organizations. I’ve used the word hundreds of times myself, but it took on new meaning as we departed Istanbul for Kathmandu in late April of this year, on my first direct disaster response with Project HOPE volunteers. I looked curiously around the plane taking us to where help was needed most, unsure of what to expect as each disaster context is different despite training and preparations. The flight was fairly barren for the large jetliner, filled exclusively with aid workers spread out across four or five seats, taking full advantage of the long flight to get much-needed rest before the true work began. Khakis and backpacks, satellite phones and medical kits filled the overhead bins. Brightly-colored vests and matching t-shirts with organization logos reminded me of a school field trip, teams identified and sticking together for the journey ahead. For the first time, I saw what meant to be ‘humanitarian’ – reaching down to the core of what it means to be human.
They say our survival instinct is “fight or flight.”We understandably escape from the fire, evacuate the danger zone, and protect ourselves from harm.So, what is it that makes someone run into the fire, go toward the danger zone, and stand in harm’s way?It is the other fundamental part of being human – caring for others, making a difference, relieving suffering, lending a hand. This humanitarian spirit is to be celebrated, embraced, and lauded. I think of the Project HOPE volunteers and all of those who responded in Nepal or any humanitarian crisis around the world. Monica made sure her children were safe with relatives while away, knowing that her advanced nursing skills could save lives. Sama, who grew up in Nepal as a child and has family in the affected region, was prepared to leave her job if not granted leave to volunteer as a surgical nurse in her home country.Russell knew that his operating room nursing skills would be vital to support the exhausted and understaffed local hospital, overwhelmed by traumatic injuries following the quake. Ann, Emily and Cheri were quick with a smile while tending to physical and emotional wounds.Each of the volunteers came for their own reasons, and each one made personal sacrifices in order to answer the deeply personal call to be human.
Of course, not all of us are in a position to leave everything behind to go headfirst into a disaster zone, but part of what bolsters and gives strength to those who do, is knowing that they are supported.Supported through an outpouring of goodwill. Supported via donations of all sizes to reach those in need. Supported through large-scale medical supplies given to replace ribs, splint fractures, cast broken bones, and bandage wounds. Supported through stories, encouragement and kind words.Let us remember that we all have the power to be ‘humanitarian’... reaching down to the core of what it means to be human, caring for one another in times of great need.
During the Pacific Partnership 2015 mission, Project HOPE staff member Kenly Flanigan and HOPE volunteer nurse Kim Kancir took part in a Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) at Saint Mary's Hospital in Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, led by my roommate, Lieutenant Commander Katherine Chiu. Saint Mary's is run by the archdiocese and is staffed by lovely people. The hospital is located on a sprawling campus with ocean views.
The goal of the day was to engage with and instruct the nursing staff at the hospital on various topics on which they might need training. However, the staff was swamped when we arrived. So our team members spread out to help where they could. After a couple of hours of meeting with patients and observing the St. Mary's nurses, Kim and Kenly led a workshop on updated CPR techniques.
Many of the nurses at the hospital hadn't renewed their CPR certification in many years. So the information they were receiving was brand new. Kim and Kenly worked as a team to instruct everyone on infant and adult CPR. They then observed and gave tips as everyone practiced on the dummies.
CPR certification may seem like a simple thing, but often simple things get overshadowed here. The CPR technique - originally taught to most people as “ABC” (airway, breath sounds, compressions) - was changed two years ago to “CAB” (compressions, airway, breath sounds). When I discovered that the nurses we met were unaware of the updated technique for basic life support, I realized the significance of events like SMEEs and Community Health Engagements. Volunteer medical personnel can travel to a place to perform procedures and administer medicines, but when this care is combined with collaboration and education, the results are invaluable.
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