Last week, the M/V YWAM PNG made its maiden voyage to the Louisiade Archipelago islands, Milne Bay, a beautiful array of coral reef islands. The clinic teams heading out to the white shores on Friday morning, did not anticipate the day that lay ahead of them on a small, turquoise island.
It was amidst the busyness of the clinic that the mother stepped forward with a 5 year old child who appeared to have trouble breathing. The mother explained that the little girl had been struggling to breathe all night and it was getting worse.
After some initial assessments and looking at the child’s medical history, it seemed likely that she had asthma. The doctors in the primary healthcare team set about treating the little girl. She was too short of breath to even speak out her own name.
At first the girl responded to the asthma treatment, but after a while she fell back into the same state of respiratory distress. It was in that moment that the team leader and emergency nurse, Shona Hubsher, detected that oxygen therapy would be required. Shona started liaising with the crew and doctors onboard the ship to establish a plan of action.
It wasn’t long before a zodiac was launched from the medical ship and was zipping across bright blue waters to pick up the young girl, mother and auntie. The girl was put on oxygen treatment straight away and was low enough at that point to be put on 6 litres of oxygen.
The child’s condition improved with oxygen, although she quickly developed a high fever and abnormal chest sounds continued as she breathed. The onboard medical team worked hard to bring down the fever and detected pneumonia as one of the likely problems that she was facing.
The around the clock care continued overnight and the worried mother wouldn’t sleep, until a team member insisted that she got some rest, promising to wake her if anything changed. The little girl was monitored and treated as the night wore on, the atmosphere was tense and the outcome was uncertain.
The next day brought good news as the mother woke and the medical team rotated shifts. There were some positive changes! The fever was down and the little girl’s breathing was easier. The treatment was working and the girl was quickly regaining her strength. She was well enough to watch a movie to take her mind off all the pain and worry of the day before.
By mid morning she was making new friends onboard and it wasn’t long before she was part of the community, playing cards, and teaching the volunteers her own games.
The team made a spacer for the girl’s inhaler out of a plastic bottle and taught her mother how to use it as well as how to differentiate between asthma and pneumonia and at what point further medical help is needed. When asked how she was, the mother said “I was very scared and now I am very happy, I thank God” replied the mother, deeply relieved.
The young girl was transported to the nearby healthcare centre to complete her recovery and placed in the capable hands of the local healthcare workers, whom the team had got to know the previous day.
“If it wasn’t for the collaboration between clinic teams, the crew, the family and the healthcare centre, none of this would have been possible” said Shona. “Everyone played their part and we were able to save this little one’s life”. Shona works as a nurse in a North Queensland emergency department and is one of our long-term clinic leaders on board the M/V YWAM PNG.
“We were in the right place at the right time” said Ship Manager, Jeana Wiemeyer. “We’re just so grateful we could help this young girl and to see her back to her normal self”.
This year’s outreach to Milne Bay saw the M/V YWAM PNG visit several new locations in Milne Bay which included maiden voyages to Misima, Rossel Island, Panaeati and Panapompom. The visits were recommended by District Health.