Medical over drive

Friday 11 June 2010 Milipe
Chimere is anchored in a beautiful bay. Black sandy beaches half circle the bay and low rocky coral ledges extend out into the water elsewhere.  The bay is protected by Tomwan Island so the bay is surrounded by enchanting tropical vegetation with couple of glimpses out to the open ocean. Right near us is a fascinating little island that Arthur Ransom might have imagined in his book of the Adventures of the Swallows and Amazons. The sobering thought is that this little island is not on the chart plotter. It is shown on the paper charts. Fortunately we inched into the bay last night just before dark and were able to plumb the depth and look for guidance from shore.
Richard was taken ashore to arrange accommodation. On the beach was Basil, the area eye care nurse who had walked in rather than trust his life on the yacht. Villages along the way gave him directions but judging by the terrain we could see from off shore it would have been a tough walk. Basil took it in his stride, so to speak. And he beat us.
Basil told the medical team he had seen people taken by shark and has a deep fear of the sea. He made the team promise that they would not swim in the ocean again. Dr Alby had already swum out to Chimere twice. Carl has taken to calling Alby ‘Shark bait”.
Richard arranged accommodation but requested we supply the food, so the medical team stayed on board for dinner. They each found places to sit on the foredeck and ate a beautiful dinner prepared by Martin which he called Chilli Con Carne a la Chimere (basic chili con carne with cans of extra things to extend the meal to feed a multitude). The meal was eaten by the light of the deck lights mounted under the spreaders in the rigging surrounded by the balmy tropical blackness of the evening. I think the team would have been happy to stay where they were all night but after a hurry up call from Richard over the radio we transported the contented souls ashore where bed mats had been laid out in a common hut.
This morning we took a breakfast box ashore. The main feature was two loaves of bread Chris cooked making a break for the medical team from boiled rice. Chris also took a break from ship board life to help the medical team. After breakfast we transported all the luggage back to the boat ready for a quick departure.
Meanwhile on Chimere the crew had been busy cleaning up and washing the decks. When Martin and I brought the dinghy back the lads thought it would be nice to have a break and go ashore. Off they went to explore and just as they got to the beach we received a radio message asking for betadine and wound dressings. So the lads turned around and came straight back to grab the supplies we had hastily put together. A  mother came to the clinic with a baby who had a 5″ gash on her forehead which had gone septic.
Carl, Paul and Grant did eventually go skin diving and came back with some lovely pictures which we will up load when we get to Luganville. On shore the medical team had a big load of general medical cases and could not finish at the cut off time for travelling to South West Bay and arriving before dark. We are now operating on Plan B. The medical team is on board and will stay overnight ready for a 6:30am departure. Several team members will add to the log so I’ll leave further comments on their day for them. Stand by.

Friday 11 June 2010
Alby and Isabel’s Report

When one embarks on a journey, one really never really anticipates all the nooks and crannys associated with such an undertaking.  Having said that, we didn’t really anticipate too many curve balls whilst we are volunteering in Vanuatu. We are enjoying our work with the local NiVans – recently voted one of the happiest people in the world.

We started our journey in Port Vila, arriving on a balmy “bloody hot” Sunday afternoon after leaving the icy cold Melbourne winter.  Immediately, we stripped ourselves of our Winter attires and let our true tropical colours shine.  Shortly after, we met our fearless skipper, Andrew and his crew who manned the yacht, Chimere which we are using to village hop around Malakula.

After supplying the yacht with “essentials” such as chocolate, cereals, condiments and sugary snacks, we arrived at Akhamb island where we stayed for a few days.  We set up clinics at the local church in Akhamb, as well as in Farun, Lisa and other small coastal villages.  Each village greeted us in the usual warm NiVan way – with smiles galore supplemented with coconut drinks and “delicious” lap lap.  We organized local races with the NiVan children and provided face painting and balloon games much to the children’s delight.  We were also able to provide health and eye care to the local populace which can vary from 50 to 100 patients per clinic.  Despite the challenges of working in limited resources areas with limited supplies, we were able to work as a team to persevere through some difficult patients.  So far, we have identified many patients with new onset hypertension – some of which occurred in the younger population most likely attributed to kava.  We also identified a few new patients with diabetes.  We were able to initiate treatment with follow up with the local nurse practitioner.  On one particular island, we were able to treat many children with yaws – a skin infection with intramuscular antibiotics.  Musculoskeletal complaints were also common and we were able to assist with oral and intra-articular analgesic agents.

To help us combat the sea sickness, we had various renditions of John Fogarty’s song “Have you ever seen the rain.”  The local NiVans also enjoyed our karaoke style entertainment after sharing a meal.  A few of us decided to swim in shark invested waters – a fact we found out after swimming in the sea.  Lesson learned from this – ask the locals prior to swimming!

Though many visitors marvel this wonderful southern pacific archipelago, we found that through volunteering in such remote and resource limited areas in Vanuatu, we were able to go off the beaten track and truly immerse ourselves into the NiVan culture in order to understand why they have been voted the happiest people in the world.  We continue onto Southwest Bay where further adventures await us.

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