The following entry was written by Juliane Poirier, a team member with Canvasback Missions, a Medical Mission Team supplied by MedShare.
Canvasback Missions, of Benicia, California, was recently aided by Medshare in sending a well-supplied team of U.S. health professionals to Micronesia, Feb. 3 – 17, 2017. Canvasback’s 20 volunteers operated a free women’s health clinic on Majuro, capital of the RMI (Republic of the Marshall Islands).
The clinic waiting room was packed with patients. During the two-week clinic, medical volunteers provided more than 450 medical consultations while simultaneously teaching Marshallese nurse-practitioner students, who translated for patients and staff. The needs were great, both among the nursing students and the patients eager to be seen by a doctor.
A clinic worker on her first trip to the islands described being touched not only by the beauty of the islands, but by the kindness and generosity of the Marshallese. It was reported, for example, that not one person complained at the clinic, even though they were obliged to wait their turn for much longer than would be tolerated in the U.S. A number of Marshallese women waited patiently for up to 10 hours—including those well past middle-age— to been examined for the first time in their lives by a gynecologist.
Some had suffered for years with afflictions requiring medical procedures not routinely available to them on their remote home islands. A 25-pound cyst was removed from one woman’s ovaries and, unrelated to gynecology, a 55-year old male was relieved of pain from a severe liver abscess when our radiologist drained 40 cc. from the man’s liver. The Canvasback physicians also worked cooperatively with Marshallese doctors at the Majuro Hospital on a number of patient diagnoses which were aided by the ultrasound, cytology and radiation results provided by medical volunteers.
Overall, there were 34 operations performed, 711 clinical procedures completed, and 61 medications dispensed in the course of the clinic, as our team diagnosed many cases of cervical cancer which, in the U.S. is considered a preventable disease.
“Most women can avoid cervical cancer by routine screenings,” explained Canvasback volunteer Kathy Nelson, a gynecologist from Montana.
One 40-year-old woman who came to the clinic was diagnosed with cervical cancer so advanced that she had only months to live. Marshallese women diagnosed with cervical cancer must have more than a 50 percent survival expectation in order to be sent, at RMI government expense, to an off-island location for treatment; otherwise, they are provided with palliative care.
In this isolated region of the Pacific, diabetes is epidemic among both old and young. But positive changes are taking place to extend the health and vitality of Marshall Islanders. Canvasback runs a Wellness Center on Majuro, providing diabetes prevention education, affordable and healthy meals, exercise classes in an air-conditioned gym, and educational materials for improved lifestyle habits, including vegetable gardening.
Canvasback Missions has been sending medical specialty teams and supplies to Micronesia for over 35 years. Medshare has been helping tremendously with supply donations to help Canvasback teams provide critically needed healthcare for people of these remote Pacific islands.