Ki­wis bring cures to Third World

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Re­tired Naval Com­man­der Larry Robbins is vol­un­teer­ing his sea­far­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for six months as a deck of­fi­cer on the Africa Mercy.

The ship is a part of the Mercy Ships char­ity that spends 10 months each year pro­vid­ing free health­care ser­vices in third world coun­tries. This year they de­cided to visit the Repub­lic of Congo.

Mercy Ships be­gan its first field ser­vice with a pa­tient se­lec­tion day to process the crowds of peo­ple seek­ing help from the char­ity for their con­di­tions, be­cause of the lack of ac­cess to health care within the na­tion.

It took more than 12 hours for all the po­ten­tial pa­tients to be seen by the med­i­cal teams, with the fi­nal cases be­ing ex­am­ined by torch light.

Mr Robbins served as an es­cort for many of the pa­tients as they were guided from hav­ing their med­i­cal his­tory recorded, to blood pres­sure and tem­per­a­ture read­ings, blood tests taken, and fi­nally an ex­am­i­na­tion per­formed by a sur­geon to de­ter­mine if the con­di­tion could be suc­cess­fully treated on-board.

‘‘Pa­tient se­lec­tion day was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Masses of peo­ple were wait­ing in line for hours be­fore be­ing moved through the var­i­ous pro­cesses,’’ he says.

Mr Robbins was chief ex­ec­u­tive of the New Zealand Na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum, now the Voy­ager New Zealand Mar­itime Mu­seum, for seven and a half years.

He says most peo­ple have ‘‘con­di­tions you would rarely see in New Zealand’’.

‘‘One of the Con­golese work­ing as a trans­la­tor even told me that he was sim­i­larly amazed, as the con­di­tions were rarely seen in the city. He as­sumed it is be­cause peo­ple hide them­selves away in shame, with no hope of treat­ment.’’

The first pa­tient Mr Robbins saw was Ebenezer, a Nige­rian who dis­cov­ered Mercy Ships af­ter search­ing online to find a cure for his fa­cial tu­mour.

Ebenezer was un­able to get treat­ment in Nige­ria so he trav­elled to Guinea to find Mercy Ships, only to find they had al­ready left the port af­ter their 10-month ser­vice.

By the time he reached Braz­zav­ille in the Congo, he was left with no more money and had no knowl­edge of French or any tribal lan­guages.

Luck­ily a fel­low Nige­rian came to his aid, by pay­ing his air fare to Point Noire where the Africa Mercy is docked.

Ebenezer be­came one of the first peo­ple to be sched­uled for surgery, and his fa­cial tu­mour was suc­cess­fully re­moved.

He will re­ceive fol­low-up surgery on the ship in two to three months.

About 40 Ki­wis vol­un­teer with Mercy Ships ev­ery year, from weeks to years at a time. Ki­wis are now work­ing in the ship’s den­tal clinic, op­er­at­ing the­atres, wards, phar­macy, and other de­part­ments.

Photo: MERCY SHIPS 2013, DE­BRA BELL

Wait­ing pa­tiently: Crowds of peo­ple wait in the ris­ing heat in the Repub­lic of Congo des­per­ately hop­ing for med­i­cal care from Mercy Ships.

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