Kim Villanueva, 3, of the Philippines was among the patients helped last month by Drs. Carl Lum and Andrew Oishi of the Aloha Medical Mission.
Isle medical team helps global effort in the Philippines
For three years, Analiza Villanueva changed the rags soaking up waste on her 3-year-old son's abdomen where two ends of his intestines were brought out during an operation in the Philippines.
"The skin was inflamed and beefy red, bathed by the intestinal fluids," said Dr. Carl Lum, of Honolulu.
The mother told Lum they struggled to pay for the first surgery and could not afford to have his intestines rejoined. "She prayed every day that a medical mission would come to her town and help them."
The arrival of a U.S. Pacific Fleet ship in the Philippines with Aloha Medical Mission and Navy doctors and nurses last month was the answer to her prayer, Lum said.
He said the 3-year-old boy was able to eat and move his bowels normally for the first time after surgeons operated on him during a Pacific Partnership Humanitarian Mission.
"This case represents America at its best, providing care for people in need," Lum said.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet under Adm. Robert Willard invited the Aloha Medical Mission to participate in the four-month mission on the USS Peleliu, a large, carrierlike amphibious ship.
Lum and Dr. Andrew Oishi, both general surgeons, were on the Aloha Medical Mission team of volunteers for the first two-week phase in the Philippines. Military medical staff also were aboard from five foreign countries, as well as the U.S. Navy, Lum said.
The public health team examined and treated more than 9,000 patients, filled more than 13,000 prescriptions and handled about 15 surgical cases daily that were flown to the ship, said Lum, medical director for the Aloha Medical Mission team.
"It's a very rewarding experience," said Oishi, with Kuakini Medical Center. "It's a mission just to help people ... that would otherwise not get care. Both Carl and I are happy to go."
The Honolulu surgeons said they operated on grapefruit-size goiters in the neck, cleft lips, gallstones and a lot of hernias that caused severe symptoms and prevented patients from working.
"We did a mastectomy for a woman with a football-size breast cancer and a patient with cancer of the thyroid which had spread to the neck nodes and required a neck dissection," Lum said.
The Aloha medical team also helped many patients on shore, and Navy surgeons removed many cataracts and restored sight to those who were blind, he said. Dentists from the Navy and San Diego Pre-Dental Society also provided dental care at local hospitals, he said.
The Navy Seabees and engineering team went ashore every day to repair hospitals, refurbish schools, clear debris from the rivers and work on other civic projects.
Lum said 78 nongovernment volunteers, including 21 from the Aloha Medical Mission and the others from Project HOPE, are participating in different parts of the humanitarian mission. The ship is continuing to Singapore, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands, and its mission is scheduled to conclude in early September.
Kathy Sassi, Hawaii Pacific University teacher and clinical nurse specialist interested in community health and preventive medicine, is among those joining the mission to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
She said she is looking forward to helping repair damage in the Solomons from a tsunami last April.
She said a doctor in Micronesia told her during a recent mission there, "Public health is like a race to get to healthy people. If disease gets to them before we do, we've lost the race."