Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chuuk

Dear Family & Friends,

It’s a sprint to the finish here as we wind things up in Chuuk. What can I say about this place? The beauty of this lagoon is absolutely stunning! The absolute splendor of these islands takes your breath away. I mean, this is something out of a James Michener novel. For someone like myself – an amateur WWII historian - there is so much to see here. This was, as many of you know, a bastion for the Japanese fleet during the war. Much of this fleet was wiped out (47 ships sunk) during “Operation Hailstorm” in February of 1944. And come to find out, Mercy is the largest ship to visit Chuuk since the Yamato anchored here in 1943.

The list of VIPs we’ve hosted has kept me pretty busy. For the first few days we entertained the President of the Federated States of Micronesia – President Manny Mori. It’s not often we Merchant Marine officers get to entertain a head of state. Of course the US Ambassador, Miriam Hughes, was also with us for much of the first week of our visit. I had the opportunity to meet Ambassador Hughes while in Guam last May. She has quickly become a great supporter and wonderful friend of the Mercy. We were also visited by Rear Admiral Christine Hunter who is the Commander of Navy Medicine West. Admiral Hunter is in charge of all the Navy’s medical facilities in the Pacific. And, last but not least, we are currently hosting Vice Admiral John Bird who is the Commander of the 7th Fleet. Busy times, to say the least!

Chuuk is considered to be one of the top scuba diving locations in the world! I’ve only had the chance to get out diving once this visit. I went out yesterday to dive a reef over at the western part of the lagoon. The coral and marine life is incredible here. The visibility is amazing as well. Many of the crew who scuba dive are finding this to be a rewarding visit.

The beauty of this atoll is sharply contrasted by a failing infrastructure. Mercy’s visit comes as a welcome event for much of the population. Here, as in all of the other places we have visited, the appreciation expressed by the people who come to Mercy for medical care is phenomenal. I had the opportunity to “scrub-in” to watch an eye surgery the other day… A fellow named Rod was having a procedure for a Ptrerygium. This is thickening of the outer coating of the eye (called the conjunctiva) that grows onto the cornea. As the anesthesia was starting to take effect, Rod was getting woozier and all the while thanking us for helping him. Before he went out, he gave a very heartfelt mutter saying, “I wish you guys could just stay here.” The surgery was a success and I was fascinated watching it. All the while looking through a microscope, Dr. Kim Davis used what I think was the world’s smallest scalpel to cut away growth and then stitch the wound closed. I watched in awe through the additional eyepiece. Somehow, I was able to set aside my usual squeamishness for slicing and sewing on a person’s eyeball. Of course, through the microscope, the eye looks about the size of a beach ball. I was startled for a second when I thought I saw a baseball bat come into view. I then realized what I was looking at was only a Q-tip.

We only have a couple more mission days to go. It hardly seems like it was 3 months ago we arrived at our first mission stop in the Philippines. We’ll be wrapping things up soon and then it’s off to Guam.

More to come…

Bob

5 comments:

Navy Mom said...

Hello Cpt. Wiley,

yep, it's time to wrap it up. You all did so much good in such a short time, in so many countries, on so many people which will remember you as white angels,and keep you in their hearts and minds. You did so great and left a deep impression in your patients, families and volunteers.
Now it's time to return home and get some down time, the clock is ticking......................
I cannot wait to see my kiddo Daniela soon, and all of you.

As always, take good care of yourself, the crew, and the vessel, you all are precious,

sincerely
Renate Di-Do :)

Mr. Gill said...

Good day Skipper,

Yes, a fair piece of work in deed. It is time now to turn the bow to a heading north by north-east, full-ahead until you anchor that tanker in Guam, and fly my Rose home.

Dave Reiser said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog. Makes me wish I was still onboard the Mercy. Take her home carefully Captain. She's a grand lady. I miss her.

Warm Regards,
Dave Reiser

K T Cat said...

Outstanding photos! Thanks for sharing them with us.

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