Marrepea can walk again

Melsisi, Pentecost 15 44.45 S, 168 08.19E

The medical team wound up their clinic this morning here at Melsisi before heading inland by 4wd ute to conduct more clinics in other villages over the next few days.  Meanwhile, crew member and nurse, Lanie, continued to help in caring for patients in the small hospital, plus I did another mud brick demonstration – this time across the other side of the village.

Back in the hospital, the woman with the bone sticking out of her finger caught a truck south to meet a trading boat which would eventually take her to Santo for treatment. And the woman with the burnt arm from being treated by a traditional “healer” will be evacuated out by plane in the morning – largely paid for by the Prevention of Blindness project.
One patient Graeme Duke was treating, was a woman he diagnosed as having Parkinsons Disease, plus recurrences of Malaria.  The lady in question, Marrepea had mostly lain on the ground for some months and was not able to walk unassisted.  Graeme got her onto her feet and to steady her suggested she hold onto a small steel frame which contained several shelves and a drawer.  She began pushing the small piece of furniture forward and then shuffling forward soon after and it suddenly hit Graeme that what she needed was a walking frame.

It was around 9:00am at this stage and I was preparing to head off to my mud brick appointment, but Graeme had a more important task for us.  Could we modify an old piece of furniture in such a way as to make a walking frame for Marrepea?  Realising we would need some tools, Matt and I  returned to the yacht and brought back a fine selection of implements, plus a green shopping bag which we intended to sew to the front of the frame as a carry bag.

The mud brick clinic was consequently put off till 10:30am

With hacksaws and hammer the old piece of hospital furniture was soon transformed and within a few hours it was indeed a walking frame – and a mighty fine one at that I must say.

Seeing all this activity under the veranda of the clinic the Head Nurse took the opportunity to rustle up some old metal chairs which had long since passed their use-by date.  These were strategically placed nearby in the hope that we’d have a go at fixing them too.

Marrepea was finally introduced to the walking frame (complete with green bag out front with her name on it) and there must have been 10 or more people gathered around in the small concrete confines of the hospital room to witness the event – of Marrepea walking!  It really was very emotional. Marrepea smiled broadly as she lifted her frame forward and shuffled along.  Little did it matter that she was travelling at a snails pace, the fact was Marrepea could walk again and was mobile.  Marrepea’s son, Freddy, a man maybe 40 years of age, and who seemed always at his mother’s side attending to her every need was so thankful it was overwhelming.  Afterall, we had simply made a walking frame, essentially from junk, yet it was a transformative piece of junk.

Later in the day as we’d finished off fixing the third chair with bolts, screws, plywood and metal bars, and were putting our tools back in our bags, there was Marrepea fairly wearing out her walking frame as she made her way around the concrete paths.  No more lying down for this lady.

Our original intention was to head off this afternoon, up the coast to a different anchorage, once the medical team had left, however, with the work at the hospital we decided to stay here until tomorrow.

Our quest tomorrow will be to track down a certain Ni-van young lady who we believe has travelled overseas to study dentistry but is now simply teaching in her village. This woman lives on the nearby island of Ambae and we’d heard about her from a peace Corp volunteer, Billy, in Santo.  We’d been trying for some time to get in touch with Billy, all to no avail … that is until this afternoon when we got him on the phone.

So our instructions in finding this woman is … teacher, village of Walaha (Ambae), been overseas studying dentistry.  We’ll see how we go.

Smooth seas fair breeze and Marrepea can walk again

Robert Latimer

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