Sunday 8 September 2013
As I write this sitting in the saloon the sun is setting over the hills of Sola on the northern tip of Vanualava. The shafts of sunlight cut through the valleys to the northwest giving a stunning but hazy outline of the hilly ranges beyond. It has been a tiring day.
There are a variety of miscellaneous activities going on as I write this paragraph. Nancy and Cathy are labouring in the kitchen, Ruth and Doug relaxing with a well-earned cup of tea, whilst Matt and Dave are trying to fix our broken on-board desalination plant.
And yes we occasionally undertake medical and dental activities as well. In an earlier blog we have outlined how each clinic runs. Each clinic has its own unique aspect with several individual stories. Several stories have already been related in previous episodes of the Ships Log, some with fictitious names but the stories are true.
And then there is the small child Nera (not her real name) on the island of Merelava …
Nera’s mother came to the clinic from the neighbouring village of Laekwel with two of her four children and wandered into a throng of waiting patients. She was too afraid to come to the clinic but curious enough to take a look. Mary agreed for the older child to have a checkup. Ruth noticed her 18-month old baby Nera and encouraged her to come in a have a checkup too.
“She cannot see. No need to check her” mother replied. So it took some encouraging to get her to bring Nera. It was clear this little girl was unwell. She had a severe facila deformity that had affected her nose, eyes, face, and impaired her vision. It was clear she had been born with a frontal encephalocele. This is similar to the problem that two other children had been discovered with and had had repaired in Australia – Adison in 2007 at the Royal Childrens Hospital, and Faelyn in 2012 at Monash Medical Centre.
Mary had already been told by another doctor that the baby could not be treated. It is also likely that the parents felt the congential deformity was some form of punishment or retribution upon them. We explained through George the local nurse and interpreter what the problem was and asked if the father could come to the clinic in the afternoon.
Mary and Nera returned later in the day with the husband and we sat them down to slowly explain what the illness was, what we could possibly offer in the way of treatment. This would involve an application to ROMAC for funding support, complex arrangements for passports, travel and accommodation. Travel from their island of Merelava is not as easy affair – if they are lucky a boat may come once in every two or three months. Even if all this was successful a full medical assessment would be required, and even if corrective surgery was feasible it would take 6-9 months to complete. This is not what mum and dad were expecting to hear, but they appeared keen to pursue whatever options might be available.
So it’s anything but smooth seas and fair breeze for this family. Yes we are a Medical Sailing Mini-series.
On Board Cub Reporter.