A short visit, put together at short notice to make use of the opportunity to have training with Wendy Stein from Rotary International’s ‘Save the Kula Babies’ project, but I believe God’s hands were again guiding our work and strengthening our connections in PNG especially with both the Wewak hospital staff and with Samaritan Aviation.
It was a pleasure to have the Sogeram women join us on Karkar Island. They were so prepared to embrace new adventures such as the boat trip to the island and learning the difficult task of inserting implants. Not being health care workers placed them in a situation where there was so much to learn in a short time. As nurses Debbie and I are very comfortable with putting on gloves, preparing syringes, giving injections, being aware of sterile techniques and the use of medication. We understand some of the science behind how medication works, the potential dangers of infection or bleeding when doing procedures and using needles. Rebeka, Alexia and Ester were excellent students and tried very hard but in the short time we all had, Wendy, Debbie and I all felt it was not fair to them or safe for patients to say they had achieved a level of competency to work unsupervised. Therefore, we presented them with certificates to declare they were trained in educating and promoting the use of Implant contraception. Wendy is keen to visit Sogeram early in 2014 and will at this time again link with the girls and make use of their new skills.
Our time in Wewak was also very rewarding. Fifteen minutes after arriving at CBC guest house we had a call from Mark Palm the pilot and founder of Samaritan Aviation asking if we were willing to provide a nurse escort on a mercy flight as their usual nurse was not available (God is good; we had especially prayed that we would have the opportunity to meet this man and here he was asking for our help). Debbie was picked up twenty minutes later to go on the float plane. The emergency didn’t turn out to be as life threatening as anticipated but Mark appreciated our willingness to help. I had the opportunity to spend time with his wife Kirsten and their visitor Mike who we had met and helped at Port Moresby airport. That is the third amazing God ordained opportunity that has occurred at Port Moresby airport.
I then spent Thursday afternoon at the hospital visiting Dr Godfrey Nabaum and Sister Ale, the Rural Family Health Coordinator for ESP. Doctor Godfrey is a lovely man and was happy to see us again and almost moved to tears when I gave him the high quality medical stethoscope as a gift from one of our supporters in Perth. Sister Ale was a lot more of a challenge, a women who is very strong on protocol and so it was a difficult but very necessary meeting with her. By the end she was seeing merit in taking this unexpected opportunity for implant training and that it would place the staff at Boram hospital and community health ahead of most of the other health districts in rural PNG.
Friday 9am we were back at the hospital and training of the staff began. Dr Nabaum was adamant that the staff take hold of this opportunity and helped ensure that lots of staff attended, several came in their own time. God was quite possibly the reason the labour ward was very quiet that day and staff were able to attend. By the afternoon we had done all the theory and demonstrated the technique on some willing women from the hospital staff and patient’s relatives. 15 implants were inserted that afternoon mostly by the PNG nurses. We left the staff with the instructions to find some more women that wanted implants so that they could become confident and competent to continue offering this birth control option when we were gone. I walked around the hospital with one of the midwives where we promoted the new family method to families with children in the paediatric ward.
Saturday morning we returned and it was again amazing: we had 70 women wanting implants. This was incredible that so many women came at short notice. It reinforces that PNG women want family planning and this method has the benefit that it is a simple procedure that gives long term birth control with the flexibility to have it removed if they want to have more children. 6 staff were fully trained and achieved an excellent level of competency to go on offering this option to women and will also be able to finish training the other staff. At the end of the day we had to contact Wendy to send more implants as we had now used 85 of the 100 she gave us. We left the hospital feeling like we were now friends with the midwives and the doctors of Boram hospital and that the doors are open for future opportunities to work together.
I walked around the postnatal ward and handed out some simple items for the new mothers which children from my children’s school in Australia had donated: a shirt, baby clothes, blanket/wrap and nappies. I also delivered some preterm baby matinee jackets and booties to the special care nursery which the staff were delighted to receive. They had 25 babies in the nursery that day, most of whom were very preterm and unlikely to survive. I then returned to the children’s ward where I handed out toys to the very sick children.
We also had the privilege to meet Sr Rhondy from Maprik District Hospital (her husband is from Bunam). She is a dedicated midwife who has a very strong desire to improve maternal and newborn health. I will continue to work with her to offer support and mentoring.
That night, Mike, Debbie and I shared a meal with Mark Palm and his family. We shared lots of stories about their work and ours. They are doing a great job of taking medications to the villages in the East Sepik region and providing emergency transport for patients. A lot of their emergency patients are mothers and babies. A large part of their work is done supporting the patient and family while at the hospital. They have a team of local volunteers who visit patients while in the hospital, checking they get seen and treated, showing friendship and praying with them and helping supply any other basic needs. They help make sure they have a way of getting back home too.
Samaritan Aviation have been given 5 acres of land beside the airport from the local village leaders to build a training centre and accommodation. They want to train health workers and support community work in the villages. Even though Living Child only does short term trips at this stage, Mark seemed pleased that we are keen to do training and has offered to fly us out to remote areas as needed. There could certainly be opportunities for our NGO’s to work together in the future. Mark presented us with a gift of a large laminated very detailed map of the whole East Sepik region with each and every village marked on it.
Debbie and I left Wewak feeling more relaxed with the town and more confident with how to get around. Yes it was a short visit but we all felt a lot was accomplished and some great networking was achieved too.