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  • By Joyce McClure

Beyond check-ups: military docs, medics help save a life at Yap hospital

Pacific Partnership18 exercise has real life impact on Pacific atolls

(Photo: Joyce McClure)

Colonia, Yap- Yap Memorial Hospital has been controlled chaos with mothers, fathers, children and elders being checked in and patiently awaiting their turns to receive medical, dental, hearing and eye check-ups with doctors from the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and the U.S.

More than 35 medical personnel – sailors, soldiers and airmen – from the 13th Pacific Partnership have been in Yap proper since March 21st seeing patients at the hospital as well as at the clinics in the municipalities and on the neighboring island of Ulithi. Among them are audiologists, veterinarians, primary care physicians, medical technicians, dentists, dental technicians and nurses.

Celine Tacheliol, Chief of Public Health, greeted Rear Admiral Shoshana Chatfield, Commander of Joint Region Marianas, Captain Peter Olive, Deputy Mission Commander of PP18, and U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission to FSM Joanne Cummings on Friday, March 30th, for a tour of the hospital, meeting the visiting medical professionals and local hospital personnel who have been seeing patients during the mission’s two-week stay.

“We told everyone that we would open the hospital at 8:30 in the morning,” Tacheliol told the visitors, “But they started arriving at 7:30! We had to work quickly to get everything set up but it’s been a great success and we are so grateful for what everyone has done for us.” She also noted that the training and information provided to the local hospital and clinic staffs has been extremely valuable for everyone involved. Rear Admiral Chatfield asked if they felt ready for the 2018 Micro Games with the training that was provided. Tacheliol nodded and said that indeed they did.

During the same time, the USNS Mercy medical ship has been in Ulithi with a contingent of family doctors and medical specialists seeing patients in the clinics, providing training to local medical teams, and dropping off medical supplies. One of the PP18 doctors who worked at the hospital on the main island and in Ulithi told Rear Adm. Chatfield that he was very impressed with the teams in Ulithi that have “the knowledge and awareness” needed to serve the residents on those remote atolls despite the many challenges of getting supplies and emergency assistance delivered.

But it hasn’t all been routine check-ups for the doctors. On March 23rd, a patient arrived at Yap Memorial Hospital with a severed radial artery. Two medical staff officers from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and a medical assistant petty officer from the British Army immediately rushed the 67-year-old man into surgery. The patient arrived at the hospital with two tourniquets on his arm while bleeding from his wrist. That morning, while cleaning around his home, the knife that he was using to clear out overgrown branches broke and struck his wrist and would have resulted in potentially fatal blood loss if not treated in time. The procedure took nearly two hours and required eight stitches to close the life-threatening wound. Throughout the procedure, two nurses and a doctor from the hospital provided continual support to the operating medical staff including intravenous equipment and liquids, morphine and tourniquets.

“We’re trained constantly to respond to trauma situations,” said Cpl. Darren Phillips, one of the team that operated on the man. “We saw a patient needing immediate attention, and we acted quickly and efficiently. This is what we do. It is a great experience to be part of a multinational team working together to help people from all over Yap,” added Phillips. Even though it was “nerve-wracking” according to the team, everyone involved agreed that they also learned from each other throughout the emergency procedure.

The U.S. and the Federated States of Micronesia continue a long history of friendship, having participated in the Pacific Partnership mission as host nation for five years with many Micronesian men and women having served or currently serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Since 2006, 22 partner nations around the globe in 18 host nations have participated in Pacific Partnership providing medical care to more than 300,000 patients, veterinary services to nearly 40,000 animals and completed nearly 200 engineering projects while building meaningful and close partnerships throughout the region.


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