Sunday, June 22, 2008

Nha Trang

Dear Family & Friends,

We were warmly welcomed when we arrived in Nha Trang, Vietnam. We dropped anchor Thursday morning just between Hon Tre Island and the city’s beautiful shoreline. Commodore Kearns, Captain Rice, and I attended the opening ceremony later that morning. At the ceremony were dozens of local and regional government and health officials. With the exception of the sweltering heat, it could not have been any nicer.

For this posting I would like give you an idea of how we operate our missions. There are 6 programs we offer to each of the host countries we visit. These are: 1) On-board surgical, medical, and diagnostic care; 2) Medical and Dental Civil Assistance Projects; 3) Engineering Civil Assistance Projects; 4) Veterinary Civil Assistance Projects; 5) Subject Matter Expert Exchange; and 6) Public Relations. Here in Vietnam we are doing all but the Veterinary program.

On-Board Surgical, Medical, and Diagnostic Care. The real value of a ship like Mercy is that she is a large fully equipped hospital wrapped-up in a ship. With her 12 operating rooms, blood bank, CT scanner, recovery and ICU wards, Mercy brings the capabilities of a major hospital to anyplace we can drop an anchor. We expect to do about 300 surgeries here in Vietnam – about a third of them will be cleft lip repairs by Operation Smile. We will also do a number of cataract surgeries, hysterectomies, tumor removals, and juvenile hernias…and, of course, the ever popular laparoscopic cholecystectomy. This last little jewel is the surgery formally known as “having your gallbladder out.”

Medical and Dental Civil Assistance Project s are often referred to as MEDCAPs and DENCAPs. These programs are how we reach the largest numbers of people. We usually run about two MEDCAP/DENCAPs each day. Each of these consists of between 35 to 50 personnel. Every morning these teams depart the vessel and head out to predetermined sights – usually a school or a local clinic. Free medical care is offered in the form of internal and family medicine, pediatric care, optometry, pharmacy, and simple dental procedures (usually extractions). These sights will usually be able to treat about 500 people per day. We will also send ashore a number of preventive medicine experts to advise local officials on such issues as water quality and insect abatement.

Engineering Civil Assistance Projects (ENCAPs) are performed by our Seabees. They work refurbishing schools and neighborhood medical clinics. We have 6 different projects going on here in Vietnam. This year, we are lucky to have aboard a group of Australian Engineers (what they call their Seabees) working side-by-side with our folks.

Veterinary Civil Assistance Projects (VETCAPs). Mercy has aboard a number of veterinarians and veterinary techs to assist local farmers with livestock. Vietnam did not request veterinary assistance during Mercy’s visit. Nonetheless, we did do a great deal of vet work while in the Philippines.

Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE). One of the goals of Pacific Partnership is, of course, to build partnerships. Sharing education and experiences is one of the most beneficial tools to accomplish this. We do this in several ways – the most common is to send medical professionals out to local clinics and hospitals to conduct training and education for local health providers. Mercy also has embarked a number of biomedical equipment techs who help repair various medical gadgets and train local operators.

Community Relations. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this mission is not only bringing medial care but also bringing a little bit of America to the people we encounter. This is done with various community relations (COMREL) projects. These range from sporting events with locals (soccer is the most popular) to volunteers going out a painting a school or orphanage. The biggest hit, by far, is the Pacific Fleet Band (Yes – we have a band). This group always draws a crowd when they play at various local venues.

I was out the day before yesterday and got to tour a number of our outreach sights. Tomorrow I’ll be going out again with Captain Jim Rice. It is absolutely amazing to watch these wonderful shipmates in action, as well as watching the tremendous impact they have with the people we meet.

More to come…



Pat, Pam, & Sean said...

Thank you all for your service. Captain Bob! The info is outstanding! We always look forward to your next posting. Can't get enough.
Your friend, Pat Yancey

marletteus said...

Thanks for keeping me posted.
Doing great work out there. I would love to take part in something like this.
Steve Gillissie's mom

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