Sunday, June 15, 2008

Farewell Cotabato

Dear Family & Friends,

We said goodbye to Cotabato on Thursday – next stop is Manila for a logistics stop and short break. The passage through the inland waters of the Philippines is just amazingly beautiful. While most of the medical staff is getting some rest, I’m spending a lot of time on the bridge. The navigation is pretty straight forward. There are several narrows that require a little extra attention; however, the weather has been fantastic so the transit has been mostly routine. What does make this interesting is the large number of small fishing (banka) boats scattered throughout these island’s waters. I mean, we have seen literally thousands of them. I have no idea what divine providence makes the fish want to hide out directly along the ship’s track…and, of course, the fishing boats will always be where the fish are. Makes things interesting…

The first leg of our transit was through the Basilan Strait – between the Zamboanga Peninsula and Basilan Island – which took us into the Sulu Sea. From there we went north and entered the Tanon Strait which lies between the islands of Negros and Cebu. Our destination was Calibayog City on the western side of the island of Samar.

We’re doing something a little different this year in order to reach a larger number of people in this region. While Mercy was in Cotabato, a “Fly-Away” team of medical and dental personnel – along with a number of Seabees - were transported by a C-130 aircraft to Samar. This was a great success! This air mission enabled us expand our presence beyond Mindanao. We dropped anchor Saturday morning just off the coast of Calibayog City to pick up our folks who have been working there for the last two weeks. After about 5-hours sitting on the hook – and all our folks aboard – we got underway for the run up to Manila.

We entered the San Bernardino Straits in the early evening (I know these waters quite well) and will be in Manila tomorrow morning. This short break is going to help everyone recharge so we can go at it again.

Here are just a few numbers from our stay in the Southern Philippines:
1) Total Patients Seen/Treated – 26,383 (!!)
2) Patients Seen Aboard Ship – 961
3) Surgeries Performed – 312
And this was only our first mission site. We have 4 more to go!

More to come…



rpg said...

Hello Captain Bob,

Thank you and farewell! Our poor Filipino fishermen could have been amazed seeing a huge floating hospital passing along their way at sea. For sure, they all quickly remembered their sick loved ones waiting at home and fantasized to have been aboard the ship for medical treatment.

Ray Gaspay
Catbalogan, Samar

Kimberly said...

Hello Captain,
My fiance is currently abord the Mercy and I have just recently found your blog. It is much more informative than he tends to be about where you are. It puts my mind at ease to read your blog and hear of all of the good things you guys are doing. We are due to get married in November. My father was a commander in the Navy before his retirement. I will be proud to once again be a part of the military community. Take care.
Kimberly Jones

wmcyote said...

We have a son onboard the Mercy and we enjoy your blogs very much. They are informative, interesting, and keep us up to date on where you have been, the excellent service you are providing, and where you are headed. Thank you.
Fair winds and following seas.

John said...

Captain Bob

Thank you and your crew for a job well done in Cotabato and your fly away team that was in and around Calbayog City.

I wish I was in Calbayog City when you arrived for your short visit. I am sure my family will let us known that they saw the Big White Ship.

Enjoy Manila and some time for a little R&R.


Navy Mom said...

Hi Captain,
as always, I am amazed of what you all are doing in such compassion. I cannot wait to read your blog to be informed from a Captains view, thank you so much for taking the time. I am glad, that my daughter, and all her mates are getting a short break, I know all of you are working very hard, but the medics and mechanics (oxygen producers) definately need some rest, as well, as anybody else so involved in this operation. Get your rest and be prepared for the next port.
To all dads, step dads, foster dads, and boyfriend dads...HAPPY FATHERSDAY:):):)
Thanks for all you do on this great tour, I do admire you all and brag about your tour :):):)
Take good care of yourself,
Renate :)

joey said...

Hello Captain

Thank you for your update on the excellent work of the project team. Like many parents, our Canadian paramedic son is a tad skimpy on details other than he is definitely hard at work in the ICU on board. However, we expect we will hear many tales when he returns home.

As a civilian paramedic and reserve medic, this is an excellent opportunity for him to gain both greater understanding of other cultures as well as training with other nations ... a common need these days.

We also thank you and the navy for the wonderful photos posted ... it is one way for those of us at home to experience a small glimmer of what the project team are seeing.

We would encourage more crew to add stories to the comments on your blog as this will add to the diary of a wonderful humanitarian story.

Our best wishes to the entire team and thank you for your inspiring efforts.

Gavin and Joane Roberston-More

John said...

Captain Bob

There are some problems with your site. Seems certain stories or picsw are not showing up.
For example, this story does not come up: "Sailor Personally Recounts PP08 Mission".

I hope the entire crew had a few days of R&R in Manila and your batteries are recharged for the next part of your mission.

Anonymous said...

Captain and crew,
As I sit here and read your blog I'm amazed at the amount of compassion and heart you pour into each day, each evolution and each patient you come in contact with. Military Sealift Command is fortunate to have you onboard doing extraordinary things on a daily basis. I feel so lucky to be attached to the same organization that cares so much and does so much for others all around the world. Always remember, "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." - Marcus Aurelius. God bless each and every one of you with good health and safety as you continue your journey.
On a personal note, Captain Wiley I'm so glad you're one of my best friends! Thank you for being you!

RHUELO said...

Hello Captain,
I am one of your patients who underwent a skin grafting operation on May 31, 2008 on board your ship. When I heard the news that USNS Mercy would be visiting Cotabato, I grabbed the chance to get medical care without expense. I was first screen in Cotabato Regional Medical Center; there I met Cmdr. Trent Douglas, a plastic surgeon. I was scheduled for operation a day after and it took us three hours, Dr. Douglas assisted by Dr. Green and Dr. Corey releases and cut out the scar tissues that allowed my neck to be extended. He then placed a skin graft over the affected area. After 2 days Dr. Douglas requires me to see Capt. Kathy Goldberg, a physical therapist, im working with her daily together with her staff, Mr. Vicente, Mr. Thorpe and Ms. Ray so that I will learn to move my neck for myself and become independent.

The successful surgery has allowed me to have more head motion for the first time in eighteen years. All my friends and relatives know about the surgery and are happy for me. Many thanks to you...the men & women of USNS Mercy T-AH 19.

I would like to special mention the following for the extra care and attention they have shown to me during my stay at ward 1, they are; Ensigns Lindsay Routt, Mark Arizumi, Daniel Grace, 2Lt. Rebekah Fry, US Navy 2nd Class Joshlyn Tellez, Amy Grangers, Pelayo, Fernandez, Aleer, Donmateo, Hooper and Mr. Gay for the extra noodles (Yakisoba) and juices he gave to me, to all of you many thanks and I will never forget meeting such a wonderful people like you.

Maraming Salamat and God bless you all...Farewell Friends!

Rhuelo D. Aradanas
Tacurong City
Province of Sultan Kudarat
Republic of the Philippines

Tom's Upholstery said...

Congratulations to all the new Mercy trusty shellbacks. My son is one of them (and he has a good looking new son, Connor born July 11 waiting for his return). As a new shellback, and a new dad (now has two boys)I nick named him Crush (after a shell back who's also a good dad on the Finding Nemo movie.)
We dads sure are proud of your work on The Mercy.
Tom Goergen
USAF Veteran
Box Elder, SD

Eleanor D. Tan said...

Hello Captain Bob,

I found your blog just today through the Operation Smile website. I am one of the volunteer nurses of Operation Smile in Cotabato at the pre-op, post-op pediatric ward, 7 pm-7 am shift. I am so thankful for the experience,exposure,opportunity and training that I acquired while aboard USNS Mercy though it was brief. Your staff at the ward were remarkable headed by Commander Belinda Rand (thank you so much for the souvenir mug),Major Skyles, Lt. Ranjodh Gill, Lt. Clark, Lt Naoemi, other nurses( I forgot to take note of their names) and the coremen, who made our service & stay in the ship worthwhile and pleasurable. I got new found friends!

I had also a great time translating for your staff and our Muslim brothers & sisters. There was one occasion about 2 am where DOC Tan, your staff brought me to an ICU room to interpret for a MOM with a son with Hirsprung's disease. It made my stay in the ship more valuable as my service broadened beyond the Operation Smile activities.

I also had the chance to be a patient in the dental clinic. I thank the Canadian/Korean dentist (I was not able to get his name) who provided special care and attention to my oral health.

My appreciation to the Australian Pharmacist Lt. Michael Talovski, who accomodated me inside the Pharmacy area to catch a glimpse of pharmaceutical care & practice activities within the USNS Mercy.

Voluntary work with Operation Smile in collaboration with USNS Mercy was such an extraordinary experience!

Eleanor Domingo Tan
Operation Smile Nurse Volunteer
Davao City, Philippines

R. Gunter said...


Thank you very much for all your postings of the PP08 USNS Mercy Mission. Although, you posted details of the Catobato mission. Did you get any of the details of the Flyaway Team sent to Samar. Like their stats pt's seen, etc. May be some of their stories. I am sure the team was probably small and consisted of no more than 25 to 30 members. Anyway, I know that these personnel provided much needed services and would love to see their achievements posted. Thanks again for all you do and tell the Crew how very proud I am for what they have accomplished. Talk to you soon.

R. Gunter

sexy said...