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.

Oh That Time We Collected $2M!!!

MP. Hon Julie Bishop - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

MP. Hon Julie Bishop – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

You never quite know what the day holds!

Most days I’m happy if I’ve managed to squeeze in a workout, reading, and cooking! I tend to like routine. But I also love for a surprise!

This is Friday morning, we are leaving for Papua New Guinea in less than 24hrs, and we still have a fair bit to do! It’s not the kind of that that I face full of confidence and enthusiasm… It’s the kind of day I take a minute at a time with big deep breath.

I have been on campus for barely 30 minutes when I get asked for a “favour”. I love to give a hand, but “C’Mon we’re leaving! I’m trying to get 7 students out the door and into PNG…” But I love friend and know that she wouldn’t asked if she didn’t think it’d be important!

“Ange, our grant from the department of foreign and trade has been approved and Julie Bishop is in town for the presentation today and we think it’d be great if IPHC could be present to receive the cheque ($2M) as you guys represent us well and are just about to head to PNG!”

Goes without saying, I agreed!!!

Making the news, and collecting $2M for the ship!

Making the news, and collecting $2M for the ship!

 

Finally Reaching Ibuo

Two years ago I was part of a small health care team deployed into the Gama River (one of the most remote rivers of Western Province)! I remember that day like it was yesterday! Most people we met looked at us with wide eyes, in disbelief and amazement, I reckon most of them had never seen anyone so white in their lives! The day was long and busy, most children had never been immunised and barely anyone knew English! We worked through lunch because we simply didn’t have enough food to share and it felt wrong to eat in front of them. We pulled out as late as we could to have sufficient amount of time to return to the ship.

That night we zoomed by a village on our way back. Being quite late and dark out we had to leave it for another time. But as we zoomed by, we could see light… probably fire, and the thought of being so close yet too far was killing us. It took me two years to finally make it back to the area and reach Ibuo Village…

Ibuo isn’t exactly what we call a remote village. A remote village we can usually access by the ship as we sail up river… We can use small boats and get in and out of the villages at any time. A very remote village is one that is also dependent on tide. Meaning we have to organise our trips in and out with the high tides and often get stranded in the village in-between said tides. Those villages usually require a much longer ride in the small boat as our ship can’t anchor this close to them. Ibuo is what a call an extremely remote village.

Ibuo is on the map in two different locations but the actually village in either of those locations! It actually isn’t charted. Three days out of four, the weather isn’t conducive to to reaching Ibuo. Unlike other villages in the area, Ibuo doesn’t have any protection from the land, it isn’t located in a river but rather out facing the ocean and in-between the mouth of two rivers! The currents there are wild and the tides horrible! Low tide lasts eight hours making it impossible to enter or leave the village! One of our contact lived in the Bamu River (adjacent to the Gama) and had tried to reach Ibuo for the last 20 years without success! No local boatsmen would take him there due to the unpredictable and dangerous seas.

When Captain Jeremy announced that the weather was good enough and that he was happy to send me if I had conviction that it was right, my heart skipped a beat! Of course I’d love to take my students to Ibuo!!! I meant taking a satelite phone, extra food and water, possibly returning very late, most likely not reaching the village, who knows they could have moved too! But most of all it meant having another shot at reaching the unreached!

As we pulled up towards the village, I tried to remember all the Motu I had learned, as far as I remembered, the people in Gama knew no Tok Pisin and these guys were even more remote!!! For some odd reason, I was the only one that had been anywhere close, and we had no Papua New Guineans with us… so I had to introduce us… I managed to say my name, where I was from and that we were with YWAM Medical Ship. That was all I could tell them in Motu. I had nothing else! And lo and behold, the chairman responded to me in Tok Pisin!!! Phewww!!! I don’t know what I would have done! They agreed for us to stay the day and were pleased to help us to set up clinic.

We walked up to a humble building with half a floor, which usually gets used as a classroom. We set up while the leader informed the community of our coming. Unfortunately, most of the village had gone out to collect Sago for two weeks. Those who were around welcomed us. After our introduction, the village chairman expressed his gratitude for our care, for our effort in coming to visit them. He told us that “No one has ever been here! No white man or PNG health team. We’re just too remote, nobody comes”

Despite the small number of people we were able to help, it was worth it! We’ve established connection, build friendship and instilled hope. We immunised their babies, cared for sores and prayed for the sick, but most importantly, we showed them that they weren’t forgotten.

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