6:00, time to get up! I climb out of my bunk bed, wait a little impatiently until the tiny bathroom (which we share with the six of us) opens. Half an hour later I walk to the dining room for breakfast. Oatmeal with apple, love it!! At 7:30 am we start the day with a short Bible study with the DTS team, half an hour later we meet with all 115 volunteers to hear where we will spend the day. Our team (PHC-Green) is going to Mariawatta today, a 20 minute boat ride from the ship.
At 8:30 am we make a long line to load all the stuff in the zodiac. Equipped with 8 large backpacks full of material and a number of plastic boxes (medication, triage material, bandages, doctor's bag, mosquito nets, birth kits, emergency bag, injections, sharps containers, ultrasound machine, etc.) we leave for the village. Enjoy to zoom through the clear blue water with 200 hp and see dolphins jumping, surrounded by high mountains, a lot of greenery, beautiful (palm) trees, indescribably beautiful!
We arrive in the village around 9:00 am. We do a quick screening for dentist patients, who we sent back in the boat to the ship to be helped in the dental clinic on board. After introduction we install our brought equipment, ready to see patients.
Together with Owen (great man, 64 years old, both a nurse and midwife with a lot of experience in the bush), I run the antenatal clinic (prenatal screenings). Unfortunately, there is no health clinic on this island; the nearest hospital is a few hours paddling. It is therefore the first prenatal check-up for the 9 pregnant women who are eager to be seen by us.
After several successful screenings, it's Mary's turn to be seen by us, a sweet girl, 23 years old, 8 months pregnant with her third child. As with any woman, we measure vital signs, we test for malaria and syphilis, we check the HB (and urine if necessary), we give tetanus injections, iron tablets, malaria prophylaxis and we check the abdomen. Thanks to Owen's valuable lessons, I can independently determine the position of the baby, measure the fundal height and trace the baby's heartbeat with the doppler! We also provide a mosquito net and a birth kit (package with supplies for a birth at home, to be clean and hygienic).
After the measurements and blood tests, we walk with Mary to the church building to examine the abdomen (with a little more privacy than in the open air). We do not have a bed or table, but we do have a narrow wooden bench on which we assess the patients. Abdominal palpation indicates that the baby is in the correct position, but I cannot find the heartbeat. I give the doppler to Owen, but he also can't find a heartbeat. We exchange a quick look, this is not a good sign… We try the ultrasound machine, but to our frustration the battery does not work enough and there is no electricity to plug in. After consultation with the clinic leader, another ultrasound device is brought from the ship. In the meantime we continue with the other women, we give treatment for a malaria positive patient and we teach important things to know during pregnancy, delivery and care for the baby.
An hour later, a nice reliable ultrasound machine is brought, with a working battery. When we scan Mary's belly again, the ultrasound shows that unfortunately the baby is no longer alive. Sad news, so far into her pregnancy but no longer viable. She speaks good English and understands what's going on. We sit on the wooden bench where we just did the scan, discuss the sad news and pray together. The delivery can no longer happen spontaneously, so in order not to get sick it is necessary that the baby will be taken out. We write a reference to the hospital in Alatou; luckily she has the opportunity to reach the hospital with a motor boat. Despite the sadness, she is grateful that she can go to the hospital on time, before she becomes seriously ill with all the consequences that entails.
After we have seen our last patient at 4:00 pm, a boat arrives with a concerned mother with a 25 days old baby. The baby has visible breathing difficulties. After a long examination of Dr. Wade and Dr. Sarah (who came over from another team), it appears that the baby has a trachea infection which causes swelling that blocks the airway. Fortunately, we have the right medication to treat, but the situation remains fragile since the baby is so young and the immune system is underdeveloped. The mother stays with the baby in the village to be seen again by the medical team the next morning (at 6:00 am). The baby appears to be improving, but full recovery requires antibiotic treatment in the hospital. Mother and baby are taken to hospital with a YWAM zodiac to receive further treatment. It seems that the baby now has a good chance of survival!
This was just a sample of a day from the first week of the ship-outreach! Despite the harrowing and sad reality that we sometimes have to deal with, there is also a lot of joy and gratitude. It is an intense pleasure to be able to connect with patients, to provide medical care where it is so necessary, to learn new things and it is a great privilege to be able to stay in this beautiful nature. We go to a different village every day, sometimes we sail at night, sometimes the ship stops for a few days. In addition to 3 medical teams, we have 2 community engagement teams (teachings, home visits, dance, etc.) and an optometry team that takes hundreds of eye measurements and provides glasses every day. On board is a dental practice with 3 dentists, where countless patients from different villages are helped every day.
The coming week is unfortunately already the last week of this outreach, March 8 we fly back to Townsville (Australia) where we have our 'DTS graduation' after 2 weeks of evaluation.
Thank you for your support and prayers, I'll keep you posted!