Duluth nurse joins Israelis to offer aid to Filipinos recovering from typhoonAfter 46 hours of travel — from my doorstep in Duluth to my arrival in Bogo — I was exhausted. I had come into some information that the ferry route from northwest Cebu
By: Julie Pearce, for the Duluth News Tribune
BOGO, Philippines — After 46 hours of travel — from my doorstep in Duluth to my arrival in Bogo — I was exhausted. I had come into some information that the ferry route from northwest Cebu was developing security concerns and I had to re-evaluate my plans to mobilize to the island of Bantanyan, where I originally had intended to establish a field clinic.
After five hours of traveling north through communities affected by the typhoon, it became clear that the eye of the storm had passed near Bogo. I learned that the Israeli Defense Force had established a sophisticated, bona-fide field hospital there, and I figured it would be better to combine resources than to reinvent the wheel.
I arrived at the IDF compound and spoke with the colonel regarding our common interests and resources. After some discussion, the colonel welcomed me as a collaborating force. This came to me as the greatest honor possible:
I have the utmost respect for Israel and its medical/disaster relief forces. They were in Haiti during the early phase of the 2010 quake, as was I, and I heard stories of the monumental relief efforts they pulled off. Here, I was being welcomed wholeheartedly onto this amazing team.
I am the only non-Israeli medical team member here. It’s an honor, not only to serve alongside them but to learn from them as well. They’ve treated me entirely as one of their own. I work, eat and sleep alongside them. We are two separate nations working side by side with a common goal at heart: to reach out and help the victims of the typhoon.
Other organizations are around, but not here where we are, though there is a mission branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints helping to translate. On the drive to Bogo, I saw no obvious relief vehicles going in or out, only children lining the road with outstretched hands. It’s sad.
What we have found is that we are treating fewer and fewer medical conditions related to the typhoon. We have seen a good share of septic wounds improperly cared for, post-typhoon in unhealthy living situations, as well as undiagnosed fractures. My day was spent splinting and sewing up several people, mostly injuries from the cleanup and the random girl who fell out of a coconut tree.
The IDF has essentially turned a developing world, rural hospital into a fairly modern-day medical facility in just 48 hours, all in the context of a major disaster. They have integrated electronic records, ultrasound, digital X-ray, a fairly sophisticated laboratory, an active surgery suite and incredible medical staff with varying specialty backgrounds. I’ve been mainly working with the orthopedic specialists and surgeons. We have been treating a lot of septic wounds, fractures and fresh wounds from falls, motorcycle crashes and — particularly — soft-tissue wounds sustained in the process of the local residents’ cleanup efforts; machetes, axes, things falling, the list goes on.
These specialists are also offering treatment for chronic conditions that the rural health system here would never have been able to support. A woman with stage 4 breast cancer that was eating through her breast tissue had a mastectomy performed. A man’s mouth tumor was treated and much more. These lives saved may, in a small way, offset some of those tragically lost. For a patient pre-typhoon, these would all be fee-based hospital visits; fees that most in a lifetime would never be able to afford.
On the ambulatory side of things, there is still a lot of diarrhea, dehydration, ob-gyn concerns and a growing concern about the number of tuberculosis-positive patients. In the IDF’s first three days, they had already about 715 patients. They may be wrapping up their work here in the next week, as will I. That is perfect, because it provides me with an opportunity to accomplish my second goal: to help further the continuity of care here at the hospital with its already fatigued staff by recruiting others in the United States to come and assist, coordinating it through my organization, the Julie Pearce Medical Relief Team.
Help is arriving, but slowly. Next is solving food and water problems, which will address many of the medical concerns we are currently seeing. Then the next phase can begin: rebuilding.
That is all I have for now. We are done working for today and we are waiting for the surgeon general to arrive from Israel before I settle into my nice little mat on the laboratory floor.