Finding Home

Coronavirus changed everything. I was used to being kept away from my genetic family and see them only every other year, so travel restrictions despite hard, weren’t devastating. Don’t hear me wrong, I love my family and miss them dearly, but I’m used to that.

I might have somewhat compensated for the distance of my genetic family by creating family everywhere I am and by calling multiple places home. I have “adopted” nieces and nephews, I’ve been “adopted” as a sister by many and I have cultures in Papua New Guinea where I feel at home, where the local language brings my heart to tears.

Coronavirus brought travel restrictions that I never saw coming. Even though we still work in PNG, we no longer work everywhere we used to. In order to keep everyone safe and effectively help in this time of crises and unprecedented need, we have decided to focus on one province for the time being.

When our managing director first discussed this with me, I was heartbroken. I would then be cut off from everyone that I call family and places that I call home, and knowing how “in need” those places are made it even harder. To add to the overwhelming whirlwind, the province we would focus on was the hardest to deliver health services in. It was the area I had the highest ratio of difficult situations & negative memories.

I set out from the ship with a team of 7 health professionals for a 2 weeks patrol. In hindsight, I would have never agreed to go for the 16 weeks we ended up spending on land, but God knew how to lead step by step and give strength, patience and grace for the day to day needs.

I normally love being on land. I call myself a village girl and feel most at home when I can establish strong relationships with the local communities, which I find easier to do on land, living in the communities, eating local food, and learning local languages. So I must say this extended time on land here in this province has been really really for my heart. 

The more I serve in Papua New Guinea, the more impressed I am by some of the local health workers! The remoteness and difficulty of the terrain makes it one of the most difficult places in the world to deliver health care, and they do it wholeheartedly, hike through swamps carrying heavy loads, get covered in mud, bitten by swarms of mosquitoes all to bring life and life abundantly to remote communities! I love my job and those I get to serve with, they truly are inspiring!

One of my favourite thing to do on Outreach is to learn some of the local language. I must admit I had not put much effort into learning to tok pleis (languages of the places) of this province prior to this outreach. But I knew my heart needed to, I needed to fall in love with these people. On this patrol, we have spent the majority of our time in Gogodala territory, working with and becoming family with Gogodala people. One of the customs here is to give names to people you become close to. I’ve had the privilege to receive a few new names during the course of our time. Here are some of them: Inato, Tamenato & Waikiyato. While they all hold a special meaning and I love them all, I have gone by Waikiyato most of the time. Waikiyato means light; it’s a traditional torch that is used to light up and lead the way in the dark. Inato is the iron rod that is used for cooking, it holds the pot on the fire; it withstands the flames while holding the heavy load.  And Tamenato is a sweet fruit, the local health worker who gave me this name had recently lost his daughter and gave me this name as I reminded them of her and this sweet memory was comparable to Tamenato. Humbled to be given such names and be adopted into such a beautiful culture, sometimes by people who barely knew me! It’s crazy to think that people would have seen these things in me to justify giving me those names. It was like being affirmed by God through His people.

Birthdays are special, you usually surround yourself with loved ones and celebrate your life, the goodness of God in the year that’s past and everyone has their own traditions for how they like to do that. I grew up with a fun birthday tradition “Birthday Bumps” I turned 34 on patrol. This means my family and loved ones organised themselves, picked me up and threw me in the air 34 times in a row! No small feat, incredibly fun and a testament of my trust in them and their love for me.

Not long after my birthday, my team was travelling on the lake and I had plenty time to think and sit with God and realised that I had some pretty amazing memories from the last 12 weeks, learning the languages, times of laughter and building relationships with local health workers, realising that I miss some of the people we got to meet and call “Wawa and Agie” (our mums and dads) from our various patrols, I found myself looking forward to revisiting some health centres and working alongside our friends again, realised that the positive memories we created outweighed the difficult ones and it really started to feel like home.

Coronavirus

Everyone has something to say about Coronavirus..!

I often think about unfollowing the ones that are too vocal about Coronavirus. It’s all I see on my feeds… and it gets old. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about it and people that disagree with them “are wrong”. Some people are strongly for the vaccine, others strongly against the vaccine, and I’m certain they all have their reasons, which I won’t debate here.

I will write about Coronavirus, but not to express my opinions or convince you of anything. I’ll share in case you’re interested to read about what has dominated my world for the last 4 months and the reality we are facing in some of the remotest parts of the world today.

COVID19 hit PNG in 2020. At the time, many didn’t believe that Coronavirus was real or that it’d have a negative impact on Papua New Guineans. Most had a strong faith that the virus would by-pass PNG. There was just enough information to slow down all official business, including customs, travel, health care and government processes. But in the villages, it was as if nothing had changed. This “Niupela Pasin” or “New way of life” that had been mandated by the government had been heard of (social distance, mask and hand hygiene) but not applied.

COVID19 disrupted health services in a big way. The already meagre immunisation coverage for childhood immunisation has plummeted. The national vaccination coverage now stands around 35% for measles and pentavalent. With such low immunisation coverage, children are likely to die from an outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases like whooping cough.

I took a team of nurses out on a routine childhood immunisation patrol to help boost this coverage and help prevent diseases and deaths. In some remote areas, people ran away from our team. They had heard rumours and needed to receive health awareness, voice their fears, be heard, ask their questions and hear our answers. Once that was done, people would readily bring their children to receive childhood immunisations.

We experienced that despite not carrying the COVID vaccines initially, people were still afraid. The fear came not from the services that were offered, but by the fact that we were health workers in the midst of the pandemic. This fear was not exclusively towards foreigners, but towards the local health workers as well. As we asked questions and took time to hear from the communities we found that there was a lot of misunderstanding, rumours, lack of awareness and a deep thirst for accurate information. Once people heard facts about Coronavirus and the vaccine, once they understood that nobody would be forced to be immunised, that we would never immunise their children against COVID19, they felt at peace. They no longer feared our face masks and they agreed to wash their hands prior to coming in for clinic.

Our days would always start with a lengthy awareness session, we’d discuss Coronavirus, then the vaccine and ask for their questions, listen to them, offer explanations, dispel many myths and finally we’d finish with what we could offer those days: routine immunisation for children. By then, those would be well received.

Every country has their own myths about the vaccine I’m sure, so here are just a few that we came across and would answer on a regular basis… If you wonder how I’d answer one of these questions, feel free to reach out ;)

  • The vaccine is a microchip
  • The vaccine is connected to 5G
  • It’s an experiment, PNG is trialling it for safety before it gets administer in the rest of the world
  • It’s the mark of the beast “666” from Revelation 13:16-19
  • The vaccine will cause you to die after 2 years of receiving it
  • If you refuse the vaccine, the Roman soldiers will come and kill you
  • The vaccine will make you infertile or to only give birth to girls
  • It’s the New World Order, the government will track you
  • Once you receive the vaccine, a coin will stick to your arm, a light bulb will glow if it touches you
  • If you accept the vaccine you will be able to fly for free and go to the shops and get everything you want

In the early weeks, we actually used the fact that we didn’t carry the vaccine to our advantage! Some places were so afraid, they would tell us, “please never bring this vaccine here”, or even “it’s good that you don’t have this vaccine”. To which I would answer “I wish that I could give you the vaccine, because it’s really good and helps saves lives, but I don’t have it, so you don’t need to worry, I only have vaccines for children.”

Halfway through our 16 week patrol, we went to a very different area! With close proximity to Australia and Indonesia, most inhabitants had heard of the benefits of the vaccine, were convinced that they wanted it and were simply waiting on availability of stock or a health care team to patrol their village and offer it to them. Actually the first village in that area, people ran to us for the vaccine.

There was a lot of hesitancy in the health care field to combine the childhood immunisations program with the COVID vaccine activities, saying that one would hurt the delivery of the other. To us it looked like such a waste of money, time, and resources not to do both at the same time, as one group of people would have had to miss out otherwise. How do you say no to either? How do you choose between saving lives of children from vaccine preventable diseases or saving adults from Coronavirus, when both were not necessarily impending outbreaks. We couldn’t.

We would set up two stations: one for adults and one for children. Use different colours of eskys/cold-chains and explain clearly where adults were to go to receive their COVID vaccine and where children were to be taken for their routine childhood immunisations. It worked so well that this became our new model. We also became quite proficient in answering questions! These awareness sessions became some of our favourite parts of the clinic days. Local health workers were usually quite timid and refused to answer questions at the beginning, but the more we worked alongside, the more they heard our presentations the more they grew in understanding and confidence. I was always a bit proud and very encouraged when our local health workers decided to take the plunge and deliver the health awareness message and answer the questions. There’s two particular instances that I’ll remember for a very long time. One was when we trekked into a small village on one of our last clinic days in a catchment and a local health worker that had been our with me multiple days turned to me with excitement in his eyes and asked for the flipchart with confidence and said “I want to share this information with my people, Ange, can I do the Tok Save today!?” Oh absolutely, please and thank you! He did really well! On another instance, we had an upskilling session with the local health workers and discussed the importance of truly understanding the message in order to accept it. The following day, a health worker started thinking out loud as we waited for the community to gather… “It’d be much better if they could understand the information in their own language directly rather than translating 2 or 3 times… Maybe I can do it?” Yes, please! I gave him our education flipchart when we left so he could continue to share this information.

Because this integration worked so well, I was convinced we should continue that way, and I even wondered if we should do more..? I met with one of the leaders for the COVID response in the province and suggested that we could take some tests with us and screen people for Coronavirus if he thought it’d be helpful to know what might be hiding in the remote area we were about to travel to. He was very enthusiastic at the idea and organised the right tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) to come with us.

For the first week in this new area, we’ve offered testing and to my surprise, people wanted to get tested. Not only they wanted to get tested, but it made COVID19 seem more tangible to them. These villagers that previously were afraid of us, now were asking for the Coronavirus vaccine! We had brought some, in hope that perhaps every now and again we’d get a handful of keen people. But we were massively surprised by how many people wanted the vaccine. We ran out! We ran out twice! A plane was flying over the area and dropped us all they could spare yet, it still wasn’t enough. Where fear used to paralyse communities, we were able to bring light and accurate information to enable people to make their own decision free of fear or guilt. Bringing hope and life.

A week into our new routine of awareness, vaccines for everyone and testing for COVID19, we came across our first positive patient. The man had travelled to Indonesia for business. Indonesia is currently experiencing a massive outbreak of Coronavirus of the Delta variant. The man was in Indonesia for 2 months, got sick there and waited until he felt better to return to his village. We visited shortly after he returned. His test had the slightest positive line, a repeat test was negative. Still we tested all his close contact and his travel buddy all of whom tested negative. The man was advised to stay home for 14 days. This was the first person we had come across with a positive result. This test became our conversation over dinner with the local officer in charge (OIC) of the health centre. A man from a different village came that day experiencing signs and symptoms of malaria, but when tested, he was negative for malaria. Our finding that day led the OIC to believe that we should test the man in the ward for COVID19. When tested, his test quickly became positive, an indicator of a high viral load. After asking a few questions, it was discovered that a family had recently returned to his village with a dead body from the big city. After the dead body was brought back to the community, many people started feeling sick with fever and cough like this man. The patient’s son advised that 20-30 people in their community would most likely have the same sickness.

Instead of continuing patrol as usual, we went to the market place and conducted our typical health awareness session and informed the community to come for vaccine and testing if they felt sick. By the end of the day, we had 7 confirmed cases around the station and were sitting on an imminent outbreak with an additional suspected 20-30 cases in a community across the lake. During that day and the next, we made a plan and sent for help. We reported the situation and made a strong plea for help, for more PPE (masks, gloves, gowns, face shields), test kits and vaccines to be sent. Communications between the provincial health authority, us and the department of foreign affairs made it all happen. A chopper was sent for us. It felt like Christmas! We received boxes of PPE and >900 doses of vaccines.

Some of our local friends had never put on full PPE before. We spent some time that morning going over infection prevention and control and donning and doffing of PPE. We would be set to respond to the communities’ cry for help. Before long, our running total was over 30 positive cases. We also learnt a bit more about the spread of the disease through contact tracing. One of the positive patient had attended a men’s gathering the previous weekend. He informed us that 200 were in attendance from villages around the lake. Every man that we came across who attended the gathering tested positive. This did not look good for the communities around the lake. We had bought a lot of the remaining supplies of bleach and soap on the lake, but wanted to leave some for villagers to be able to purchase some. therefore, we asked for more sanitation items to be sent up to us, along with additional staff to be able to respond appropriately by not only focusing on testing and giving home quarantine advise but also preempting the spread by offering more vaccine in the villages not yet reached by the outbreak.

Home quarantine is really hard. It’s hard to be at home and order groceries online, be depraved of the freedom to wander the aisles and pick your food, not be allowed to go for a walk or run. It gets depressing to be inside for two weeks, but it’s manageable. There’s electricity, running water and our homes are generally comfortable. Home quarantine in PNG is very different. It doesn’t matter what guidelines are written from a capital city, in the remote village, it is extremely hard to apply it. Try telling a man that nobody in his household can leave: they cannot go to the garden to fetch food, they cannot go to the market, they cannot go to the village’s water tank, or to fetch fire food. That they would need to depend on someone else who’s also a subsistance farmer working really hard to survive. Our local health workers were devastated and didn’t want to tell families that they had to quarantine, but they understood that it’d be a disaster waiting to happen if they didn’t. After a prayer for divine wisdom and a good brainstorming session, the idea of quarantining in the bush/camping place was brought forward. Every family has a patch of land for gardening or Sago harvesting, and usually those have a makeshift hut a family can live in. There’s usually ample food in the garden and water nearby. This was a good solution!

We came across our first case of COVID19 in week 13 of our patrol. It’d be fair to say we weren’t as fresh as week 1, but also very grateful for the ground experience gathered over the last months. Unfortunately we could not stay forever, and had to handover the COVID response to continue with our mission. By the time we left, there had been 73 cases diagnosed, 4 suspected COVID related deaths, and over 1200 doses of the vaccine administered, and still so much contact tracing to happen and communities to visit. What had seemed like a well rehearsed explanation, a question and answer ritual over the previous weeks had become what we hope we’d never have to see in a remote place. It was week 16 when we returned to the ship.

Week 14 a plane was sent from the district and provincial headquarters with additional supplies and 3 health workers to join us in the response. I remember standing on the side of the airstrip and hearing the plane approach. That sound was more than an airplane, it was an answer to prayers, it was support, it was light being shined in a dark place, it was hope, it was life.

I Wear Computer-Geek Glasses

I see someone wearing glasses, I automatically think: they are smart. This is ridiculous, I know, but that’s how my brain is wired. Glasses=nerd=intelligent/genius.

I don’t consider myself dumb. If anything I think I’m quite smart. Not to be prideful or anything, but I’m quick to grasp on things and action them on to results.

However, if there was a thing I didn’t use to understand… (without just refusing to learn, like any manly jobs… such as car stuff, or electricity or plumbing…) it’s IT!

I’ve had quite a steep learning curve since joining YWAM, I’ve had to use more Microsoft programs than ever before, develop this blog, send newsletters (proper ones, not just a long black and white text in an email) then I’ve learnt about apple stuff (like appleTV), and google stuff (like Google Earth, google spreadsheets…) then it was YNAB a budgeting app, then Salesforce and OH! ArcGIS, I learnt how to make maps a few years back! Then we got Trello and Basecamp to track all of our work. And it’s a lot of work just to keep track of those tracking tools! But in the last year, my mind was completely shattered and expanded.

I have been introduced to something that makes me love IT. It’s also something that makes me feel incredibly intelligent and incredibly dumb at times! Some days every thing works brilliantly, we are developing things, growing and improving, and seeing so much change it’s incredible. Some days it seems like there’s more problems than solutions, it seems like there will always be things to improve and need for my brain to be so much more! Days where I want to play frisbee with my computer and call it quits! For those days, I wear my geeky-computer glasses. They bring me perspective and remind me of how far we’ve come. How far I’ve come with my skills and how far we’ve come as a mission with our data management!

None of this would be possible without Marty at Gearbox Solutions and his team! Big shout out to them and all the hours they put in. Oh! You should totally watch this video if you haven’t seen it!

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And it you know anyone that is IT savvy, please send them my way, I will put them to good use :)

Jurassic Siassi

I love pioneering, and going to new places. I love being in the middle of no where! When I’m in Townsville, I often ride my bicycle as far as my legs will take me, then look around and go: “Wow! No one would ever find me here!” I have a problem, I know! I love the sight of the untouched, pristine even wild looking land.

When I heard we were taking the ship to Siassi Island I got excited. One of our land based team had gone to Umboi Island just a few months beforehand. Siassi is the local name for what the Western world knows as Umboi Island. The team had gone on a scouting trip to find out what health services were available, where the ship could anchor and came back with heaps of stories… I heard that Umboi Island had one of the most recent sighting of …

dinosaurs…! Haha, oh the world we live in… I thought I’d check it out. If one looks on Google to get some information on the island… this is what they’d find:
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During orientation, I was talking about where we would go with the ship throughout the outreach and for the first week, I told them we would go to Jurassic Park! I asked our local friends to tell us more about the rumours we had been hearing about dinosaurs… All I got out of them was a nervous laugh, and a stare, not denying nor confirming..! I might not have seen any dinosaurs during our time in Siassi, but I reckon if they exist anywhere, surely they could be hiding in PNG!

But don’t worry, Google isn’t where I get all my information… I love the Health Facility Map for PNG.
screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-3-56-15-pmOn this map of Siassi, every red dot is a house. This is a very good database for us to know if we’re going to be busy and where the health centres are. Zooming in, we saw that one island had over 100 houses on it’s tiny amount of land! Something we found in the area is that people are very attached to their piece of land and won’t relocate to the main land even if they’d have more space there… they’d rather have their neighbour within arm’s reach (really!). Personally I wouldn’t want to live on the mainland either if I thought it had dinosaurs! Haha!

In all seriousness, Siassi was gorgeous, and the people so welcoming! They did an official welcome for us and danced for ages, have a look at the video our media team put together and travel to Jurassic Siassi with me :)

Reaching Kira

I first heard of Kira in 2014.

It was mentioned in passing in a meeting with provincial health. I remember that we were discussing where to target our medical efforts for the remaining two weeks of our primary health care school. The District Health Manager for Sohe suggested we go to Kira, but with only two weeks remaining we agreed that it’s be better to try to make it work another time, with a bigger heads and a potential funding.

At the time I liked the idea of going because it was far, it was inland, and they needed help. I was keen to get there by boat and by foot. My good friend and local health worker Philip had done it before.

“Angie, to reach Kira, you take a boat past the border into Morobe, you go into the mouth of the river and travel as far as the dinghy will take you. You might have to get out at times and pull-push the boat. But when you can’t go by river anymore, you’ll have to walk up the mountain. That’ll take you two days, then you’ll reach Kira.”

My brain was thinking… how will I convince the leadership team that it’s a good idea to venture into the unknown with medical gear and food and ride up in rickety dinghies, and then hike up mountains for days!? Not going to happen! Not that way…

In 2016, it got mentioned again, seriously considering this time. Funding was available, we were going to go by helicopter to two different locations in the mountains. One of them was Kira. Eyes wide open and heart full of hope, I did my homework and built up a risk analysis for helicopter patrols. We had an eight weeks outreach on land in the province, surely that would have been enough time to get the logistics organised and the funding released. We work in partnership and want to involve the local health workers and authorities in place to empower them to take ownership, and share in the victories/stories of bringing services to their people. Long story short, it didn’t happen in 2016.

But in 2017… it did! And it happened quick! It was a lot of people rowing together to make it happen. It was part of our collaborative outreach to Oro Province. We had two helicopter patrols that outreach. One to Ioma and one to Kira. I got to go to Kira. So did my friend Philip.

We planned to go for two days and bring immunisations, reading glasses and health teachings. Kira is a health station, but the facilities aren’t open yet and they do not have cold chain. In fact, Philip believed that the last immunisations were given roughly five years ago. According to the Health Centre Facility Map, there should be approximately 500 houses in the area, so we’d be quite busy if people came for services.

Unfortunately, Kira is so remote far inland and without telephone network that they have not heard we were coming. Those that heard the chopper land came to see who we were and what we were doing in their village. Amongst them were village leaders and constables (police officers). Those guys agreed with the officer in charge of the (closed) health centre, to run up the mountains and spread the word in the adjacent wards that a health care team was there and to make their way down to Kira.

The first day we didn’t see too many people. We saw those living at the station. Focused on family planning (Papua New Guinea term for contraception) and education. We also did outpatients consults to see the sick ones. Some ear infections, some musculoskeletal injuries, a man that probably had AIDS, and lots of simple coughs.

It was the end of the first day and I was sitting down with the health workers talking about everything and nothing from health worker training, to life in the village to health care politics, everyone seems to have dreams of a better system! Some village people and kids were still around, it’s not everyday foreigners come, so we become a bit of entertainment in a way…

Mid conversation I heard a sound I knew to be bad. I stopped listening to the ongoing conversation inside and turned my ears outside. There was a little boy roughly 10 years old, coughing his lungs out and then I heard it again! “Whooooop!” Eyes wide opened I stood outside on the porch and watched him cough again, a set of cough followed by a whoop. WHOOPING COUGH!? I had never heard that in real life…! Sure we learn about it in school, I teach my students each year, but had never heard it live.

I brought the boy into the exam room and had a look at him. He had come to the clinic earlier that day for his cough. But he wasn’t coughing like that then. I was actually proud of the local health worker that had diagnosed the boy with simple cough and prescribed “Rest, increase fluids and citrus” as a remedy for his condition. Too often I see antibiotics prescribed where it isn’t needed.

This boy however didn’t have simple cough; he had whooping cough or pertussis! In talking with the local health extension officer, apparently there were many cases of pertussis in the area. Understandably so if the last immunisations were administered in 2012! We decided something needed to be done about it. The local health workers didn’t have much supply of antibiotics and didn’t have the right ones for pertussis.

The next day was market day. Pertussis awareness was done at the market. All were informed to bring children to the clinic. Those showing signs of pertussis were prescribed a course of antibiotic and those not affected yet given a vaccine to protect them. 9 were treated for pertussis and 76 immunised against it over the course of our patrol.

I often think of the timing of things and why we didn’t get to Kira earlier, then I’m reminded that we got there at the right time. I think of what would have happened if I had gone to the house right after clinic rather than sitting there and discussing all these things. And I thank God that I can trust Him to have me at the right place at the right time as He intends for me.

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Not by ship, nor by foot…!

I fell in love with ships because they can bring you to remote places.

I’ve always loved hiking because you can reach remote places! I used to think that there’s nothing worse than a road that goes up a mountain because the view from the top of a mountain should only be available to those who conquer the heights…

Well working in Papua New Guinea (PNG), I now think that roads should be everywhere! Roads bring access to people, they allow health workers to travel, medicine to reach people. But unfortunately, roads don’t extend much beyond the main cities in PNG.

Now one of my new favourite way to get to places is helicopters. I’d still trek to the middle of the jungle, but not everyone wants to follow me. And that’s why helicopters are brilliant! I can bring medical professionals who haven’t got the time or the desire to train right into the middle of the jungle.

We have recently been working in partnership with Manolos Aviation and reaching far inland with little prep time! It’s been amazing to drop in a village for a day and provide specialised medical services! One day we took a dental team with portable dental chairs and extracted teeth (decayed ones and retained roots) until we ran out of lignocaine or anaesthesia!

Or the time our team ended up teaching the local health workers how to do incision and drainage of abscesses! Trust me, you’re glad I’m not posting those pictures ;)

Another time we sent an overnight patrol to provide immunisations to the community.. boy oh boy we were not expecting what we found! Read up about it in my blog “Reaching Kira”!

All that to say… I’m a pretty big fan of the flying bird :)

Oh and a big shout out to Manolos Aviation/Niuguini Heliworks! Their commitment to improving health outcomes for women in labour needing emergency medical services is unreal!

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Pink Canoes in the Ocean…

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Or Mycobacteria… It’s like pink canoes in the blue ocean really.

I have been quite behind in writing up stories from outreach, but even though this is from a while back, I wanted to post it :) So during outreach 8 in Milne Bay last year, I got the chance to spend some time training in the lab! I have this passion for TB and want to see what can be done to make a difference in this space. So spending some time with the lab was so refreshing and inspiring!

We’d go out to the village in the day, collect sputum sample… I must admit I can’t take sputum. I gag every time I hear someone cough it up. The consistency grosses me out, and the smell! Ugh! It reminds me of tracheotomy care during my time as a nurse on the surgical floor. But once the thick sputum is spread thin on the microscope slide all is well! We let it dry, burn it, then stain it with a bunch of dyes and it doesn’t look like sputum anymore. Everything is blue.

Until you look under the microscope. Then this is where my attention to detail comes in handy! To diagnose or read a slide, you have to look through 100 fields of vision and scan them thoroughly to ensure there’s no trace of TB.

That image is from one of the many that tested positive on that outreach. Roughly 70% of those tested had tuberculosis. Once tested positive, they can be started on treatment, start getting better and stop spreading the disease.

Testing is relatively hard in Papua New Guinea due to the remoteness. It is hard for patients to get to the health centre. And if the health centre don’t test for TB, they might take a sample, but without proper transport, the sample won’t be viable when it arrives to the next destination. Having the lab on board, not only allows us to diagnose, but also help identify locations that could have a lab and train their staff.
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“It’s about Working with Friends!”

ORO PROVINCE DONATES TO YWAM MEDICAL SHIP

Governor Juffa said that the provincial administration was a proud supporter of YWAM’s work in Oro Province.

“YWAM first started working in Oro three years ago with their land-based primary healthcare teams who built relationships with local healthcare workers and village leaders in preparation for the arrival of the first YWAM Training and Medical Ship in the province.”

“What has stood out to me about the work of YWAM is their commitment to build relationship and to work alongside our people in seeing good outcomes. They’ve stayed in our villages, trekked with backpacks full of supplies, travelled in boats along our coast and have come to know and love our people. Our health workers and provincial administration look forward to their visit every year – its more than getting a job done, its about working with friends.  Friends that share our common vision – excellent rural service delivery.”

“We are very excited to see the newly refitted MV YWAM PNG ship now heading our way, even better equipped than last year.  In 2015, on the maiden voyage, more than 1500 patients were seen, and more than 800 immunisations provided, to our people in remote places in just 5 days.  This was all in collaboration with 15 of our own health workers on outreach patrols.  We make a great team.”

“Our donation today re-affirms our partnership and appreciation for 2015.  It also gives me great pleasure to couple this with a 2016 funding commitment of K250,000PGK,” said Governor Juffa.

YWAM Medical Ships Managing Director, Mr Ken Mulligan, said he was grateful for the Oro Provincial Administration’s support.

“We greatly value our relationships in Oro Province, and appreciate Governor Juffa’s lead in helping get this rural service program established.”

“MV YWAM PNG returned to Papua New Guinea just last week, following the completion of Stage 2 of the vessel’s refit; including the construction of a new dentistry clinic, day procedure unit, laboratory and the addition of a new, much-larger patrol boat that will transport teams and supplies from the ‘mother ship’.

“In addition to having much greater capacity to deliver services, we now have more opportunity to build capacity in the local health workforce and dental, medical and ophthalmic students by giving hands-on experience alongside our onboard health professionals.

“I believe it’s a exciting day for Papua New Guinea – together we are positioned to directly impact thousands of lives,” said Mr Mulligan.

The MV YWAM PNG is currently in the Gulf Province for the first outreach of the year, delivering primary health care, optometry, dentistry, eye surgeries and training to rural communities in the Kikori district.

There are 100 volunteers from 18 different nations aboard for the voyage including 17 Papua New Guineans.

Other major contributions to YWAM Medical Ships’ 2015 operational funding were Steamships Trading Company, InterOil, Puma Energy, PNG Ports Corporation, Milne Bay and Western Provincial Governments and Australian Aid. Major capital contributors to the vessel purchase included the PNG National Government and Morobe, Milne Bay, Central and Western Provinces.

 

 

KATHMANDU SUPPORTS TREKKING MEDICAL TEAM IN REMOTE PNG

KATHMANDU SUPPORTS TREKKING MEDICAL TEAM IN REMOTE PNG

A team of fifteen primary health care workers representing 7 different nations are jetting off to Papua New Guinea (PNG) next month to deliver primary health care and health education thanks to the support of camping and travel gear supplier, Kathmandu.

The team is a part of Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Medical Ships, a Christian charity that delivers health care and training to remote communities in PNG via its medical ship and land-based teams. Everyone working with YWAM is a full-time volunteer.

Team leader and Registered Nurse, Angelica Langlais, said that this trip will be her fourth visit to Oro Province in Papua New Guinea where her team will be working.

“My first trip to PNG was in 2012 – serving aboard our Medical Ship. The voyage opened my eyes to the reality of the remoteness and need for better health care services. Some people travel in canoes for two weeks, while others  trek for four days to reach healthcare services. The reality of it all was really confronting and hard to accept.

“Bringing teams of health care workers to remote in-land areas has been a dream on my heart ever since – and this year, I have the joy of leading a trekking team throughout Oro Province, while the other half of our team serves aboard the YWAM Medical Ship. We’ll be living like the locals – staying in villages, cooking over the fire, and showering using bucket! We have such a great opportunity to build relationship and to learn from one another.

Kathmandu has generously provided our team with trekking packs, that will carry essential medicines and wound care supplies as well as tents.  Having good gear is so important for a trip like this – we are so grateful for Kathmandu’s generous support,” said Ms Langlais.

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The team will set up mobile clinics in every village they visit and will provide maternal health services, childhood immunisations, wound care and healt

The team will set up mobile clinics in every village they visit and will provide maternal health services, childhood immunisations, wound care and health education alongside local health workers.
“The health education is one of our most important roles – we’ll be raising awareness on some of PNGs most critical (and easily preventable) health concerns, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/Aids,” said Ms Langlais.

The team departs Townsville next month and will serve in remote villages throughout PNG for 11 weeks.
For more information on joining a YWAM Medical Ships outreach, click here.

 

“This Is Number 10… 7 Died!”

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Meet Epa, She lives in Ibuo with her 3 children. I first saw Epa on the bank of the river as we came into her village. She was one of the only ones that spoke English. We informed the people in the village of our presence and came to clinic with her last born. Epa brought her child for immunisations. She introduced him as “This is number 10; 7 died”.

No emotions on her face, simply stating the facts. But her presence alone was a cry of despair. She was asking for immunisations, she knew that it could possibly save this last one. She wasn’t quite sure why all the other ones passed away; pneumonia, malaria, TB, or diarrhea… but she wanted all the help she could get with this one. She ended up being one of the only mothers that came to clinic with her children, unfortunately many were gone to the sago camp for a few weeks.

We were able to reinforce the importance of immunisation and regular health checks, but reality is that this village lived so far away from anything and in such hostile waters that they barely ever go to the health centre. In cases like this I have to hold on to the belief that we made a difference. Belief that women in the village are going to change their view of health and sicknesses, stop entertaining a fatalistic worldview and start hoping and believing for change and health.

Epa hoped for a better future for her last born. My prayer is that Epa’s story would be transformed from a story of death into one of hope that becomes a catalyst for change in the hearts of mothers in the remotes parts of PNG.