Sunday, June 8, 2008

…and then a miracle happens!

Dear Family & Friends,

The following was posted in the comments by ISC Shawn Cohen - one of our many outstanding Chief Petty Officers embarked aboard Mercy. It is such a great story I thought I should move it to the main postings. So please welcome guest blogger Chief Cohen:

More to come…



Friends and Family,

Let me take a moment of your time to tell you about my day. A few minutes ago a Marine who works for me asked me if we would get any medals or awards for this deployment, such as the Humanitarian Service Medal. I told him that we would not be eligible for the HSM, but some of us might receive something like a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal or perhaps a Flag Letter of Commendation. Then I told the Sergeant that I had already received something much better than any medal they could give me. I explained how a short time ago I had stopped into the Physical Therapy room for an adjustment since I hurt my neck in a fall yesterday (not serious, getting better thanks for asking.) While I was there I saw a 15-year-old Filipino boy named Romeo. I thought he was younger than that because he is fairly small for his age. I first saw Romeo there yesterday when they wheeled him in on a wheelchair. Romeo was very excited to be in a wheelchair because for the first time in years he was able to move around on his own without having to depend on other people. When Romeo was nine-years-old he was injured in a bomb blast when his village in the Republic of the Philippines was caught up in fighting between rival factions. His legs were so badly burned in the blast that scar tissue prevented him from even straightening his leg. His legs have atrophied so much that they are smaller around than my arms. For the last six years he has been unable to walk, and his father has carried him around. When not carried, he crawls around on his hands. He is totally dependent on family members to take care of him.

As Romeo gets older, he is getting too big for his father to carry around. His father is smaller than I am, and I couldn’t imagine carrying him around all day. When his family heard that our hospital ship, USNS MERCY, was coming to Mindanao they asked if we could help. His case was accepted, and our team of doctors decided to cut away the scar tissue that bound Romeo’s leg like webbing and replace it with a large skin graft taken from his back. His father asked one of our surgeons, Commander Todd, if the boy would ever be able to ride his bicycle again. Dr. Todd said there was a remote chance he may one day be able to ride a bike - and perhaps even stand on his own – although the boy would probably never walk more than a few steps.

Today, a few days after his surgery, I saw Romeo walk on crutches for the first time since the explosion. He was surrounded by family members and his doctors - Commander Todd, Commander Tan, Commander Douglas (his plastic Surgeon), Captain Goldberg (his physical therapist) and a Navy journalist who captured the moment on video. We all watched as he climbed up on the exercise bike and rode like he was competing in the Tour de France! His father and sister watched in amazement with tears streaming down their cheeks. This is a boy who now has a chance to do things on his own. To go to school, work, play with friends, grow up and raise a family. His father shook our hands and hugged us all, then looked into my eyes and said “Salamat Po” (a sincere thank you.) I would have traded all my medals for those two words.

So that was my day. How are you all doing?


Shawn Cohen


BTW: I was lucky this morning to have young Romeo walk into my office for a visit. See photo (Romeo is the good look’n one on the left! :-)


Leanne said...

Thank you for these wonderful stories and pictures. My children are missing their Daddy and it will help when I can show them pictures of the kids being helped on "the big white ship". Our loved one is David, down in Radiology.

Pat, Pam, & Sean said...

Hey Capt. Bob
This is what America is all about.
Thanks for the story. Keep up the great work Cheif Petty Officer Cohen. Beautiful picture too! Your right the good lookin one is on the left:-

Susan Darigo said...

Thanks for sharing Chief Cohen's story. Our sister, LtCmdr Jane, is a nurse on another Mercy ward. We've been enjoying her emails detailing her work there. Makes me wish I could be there, too. BZ to everyone on the USNS Mercy!

Susan in Denver, on behalf of all the Darigos in Hawaii, Alaska, Colorado, and Missouri

drboden said...

You have put my day in perspective. Your story reminds me of the sand dollar story, where a little boy walked along a beach picking up sand dollars that had washed ashore. There were hundreds if not thousands; the boy would walk a few feet picked up a sand dollar and threw it into the ocean. His grand father walking beside him asked what he was doing; he said “returning this sand dollar to the ocean.” The little boy knew there were way too many to throw them all back. The grand father quickly pointed out the boy’s plight. “Son there are way to many sand dollars for you to throw them all back, what does it matter.” The little boy stated without hesitation “it mattered to that one.”

It may seem insignificant to us in the United States that you are helping one little boy on the other side of the world, but to that one little boy it matters.

William said...

Thanks for getting these stories out.
Thank you and the other civilians, working with our great military as part of a team.
We are grateful to you and all the other people serving aboard Mercy -- showing the best of America.

CaptB said...

Captain Wiley,
Great stories of a great adventure. Suppose that someone has to stand and pose with the Miss Universe contestants. Be sure your wife gets some flowers.
Thank your crew, the mission medical and all our forces for the duty, honor and committment that they show. USNS MERCY is a national treasure.

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