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.
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.
Since joining the Pacific Partnership 2015 mission, I have focused most of my efforts taking care of children before and after surgical procedures. Last week I took care of a baby boy who was recovering from a surgery that fixed his cleft lip.
When a child is in utero and the face is developing, sometimes the lip and palate do not form properly, leaving the child with what looks like a gap in his or her top lip. This is referred to as a cleft lip or cleft palate. You can imagine how such an abnormality could severely and negatively affect a baby's quality of life. So I was glad to be a part of the life-changing team that would fix this abnormality forever. A cleft lip or cleft palate is a relatively common birth defect around the world. However most of us rarely witness it, because in the developed world it usually gets fixed quite early in life.
Unfortunately for this boy, who lives in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, this surgery was not available. Consequently, for the first three months of life, he was unable to breastfeed or drink from a bottle. As a result, the boy is severely underweight, despite his family's best efforts to feed him with a spoon. Spoon-feeding is an exhausting process for a newborn, requiring exertion for which the boy did not have the energy to spend. A typical feeding for him was unsatisfying and insufficient. It was wonderful to see the immediate results of the surgery when his lip was repaired. We taught him to take a special type of nipple on a bottle, and the first time he was offered the bottle he took to it with no issues and drank a full 200ml! He then slept for an hour and wanted another bottle.
It was a very special experience to witness the dramatic difference made in this boy’s life, and I am very glad to be a part of the incredible team working to make that difference in as many children's lives as possible on Pacific Partnership 2015.
Labels: , Volunteers
Bula bula everyone! We had an exciting and productive week in Fiji! At port in Suva and anchored in Savusavu, our volunteers travelled to shore to participate in community health engagements, subject matter expert exchanges, and community outreach missions. Rose Wilson and I were fortunate enough to participate in a mission to bring water filters to Savusavu and to villages on the island of Taveuni. We worked with members of the Army Civil Affairs team (CAT) and members of the Navy to coordinate the delivery and installation of the filters, and engaged with students from a vocational school on the island to complete various renovations on the nursing centers we visited. We had the pleasure of meeting many of the individuals who will benefit from the filters.
To start the project, Rose visited the Ministry of Health in Savusavu to discuss how to better educate and implement clean water.
“We went to install these water filters on request from the Ministry of Health,” said Rose. Fiji has access to a lot of water on account of high rainfall, and some of the farms etc. do use tanks, but there are pockets of the community that use water out of creeks and other less sanitary sources. At places like clinics, hospitals, schools, and nursing stations, water is still boiled to rid it of impurities and bacteria. So we brought the filters to be installed in those locations. We installed one in the actual Ministry of Health to promote clean water and to teach them how to do it themselves, so that they are better equipped to help communities access clean water all the time.”
The next day we set out for Taveuni, a beautiful island inhabited by wonderful, welcoming people. It is one of Fiji's larger islands, but it is remote and access to filtered water is very limited. We flew there from the ship by helicopter and landed on a rugby field and were greeted by the local team in the midst of their morning practice. We then proceeded to drive north to the first nursing station of our visit.
Many of the water tanks we saw collected rainwater from gutters and were sitting on decomposing platforms. Our teams assembled the water filters and explained how they work and how to maintain them, and simultaneously worked with the students to rebuild and reinforce the platforms the water tanks rest on. While the students from the vocational school constructed the new platform under the guidance of the CAT, I met several inquisitive little girls whose mothers were visiting the nursing center. I explained how the water filter would give them cleaner, healthier water to drink and shared my MRE, or meal ready to eat, with them. One of the CATs shared his M&Ms with them, which were promptly spit out and traded for fresh mandarin oranges plucked right from the trees! I felt very lucky to be able to interact with and learn from some of the children whose lives will be positively impacted by this particular mission.
Before the water filters, the people at the nursing stations had to boil the water and wait for it to cool down before using it. After our visit, the benefits were visible right away. The brown, muddy water that went into the filters came out clear and clean, and, as Rose put it, “this was important for them to see because it heightened enthusiasm and excitement to install filters elsewhere, and now they know how to do it. They can now go and install them in spaces themselves.” Everyone was very happy! The children we met were thrilled and loved watching the water go in dirty and come out clear- it was like magic to them!
The mission was successful and directly coincided with Project HOPE's goal to help people help themselves. We left each location satisfied that the water filters will prove effective and be used properly for years to come. Empowering the people of Savusavu and Taveuni with the gift of clean water was very powerful and made Rose and I especially appreciative and conscious of the access we have to clean water.
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