Lending a helping hand with a little first aid

Valeriy treats an infected leg in the Esperanza's sick bay © Greenpeace/Sharomov

Valeriy treats an infected leg in the Esperanza's sick bay © Greenpeace/Sharomov

Even though we’re here to tackle big, global issues of deforestation and climate change, there’s still time to help out with smaller problems as well. The Esperanza has a sick bay and a qualified medic on board, and in a country like Indonesia there are plenty of opportunities to dish out a little TLC.

Valeriy, our Ukranian doctor, has been keen to help some of the people we’ve met with diagnosis and, where possible, treatment of various ailments. He held an impromptu first aid clinic for one village in Papua New Guinea a few weeks ago and wanted to do something similar on this side of the border.

He was able to treat one of the dancers from the welcome ceremony in Manokwari who had an infected leg and then, while we were anchored in the harbour, he spotted Biryosi, a collection of ramshackle wooden houses perched on stilts over the water a few miles from the main town. The perfect place to help with some first aid.

Examining a man with tuberculosis © Greenpeace/Sharomov

Examining a man with tuberculosis
© Greenpeace/Sharomov

Together with Kelly, Yoyon and Reza (our Indonesian crew members to help with translation) and Dmitri the second mate, Valeriy took a boat over on Sunday morning. The village chief allowed the use of his veranda as a makeshift clinic and the long queue meant Valeriy worked for four hours, examining and treating various ailments. So many people turned up, the house started shaking and the chief became concerned it might collapse into the bay.

Many people had respiratory infections such as tuberculosis, bronchitis and other breathing problems. There were also tropical skin diseases and stomach infections, including a peptic ulcer Valeriy was able to provide treatment for. But although there were several cases of malaria, mostly in children, he was only able to diagnose and advise those infected. Malaria is so common that most people were able to diagnose themselves, but for whatever reason hadn’t been to the hospital in Manokwari for treatment. Money was offered for Valeriy’s services which he politely turned down, but he couldn’t refuse a gift of several coconuts.

Word clearly got around about the freelance doctor from the ship because the following morning, not long before we were due to set sail, a mother and father pulled up alongside in a canoe with their flu-ridden son. The canoe had to be rescued by a passing fishing boat when it drifted away from the ship, but more coconuts were delivered to the ship to say thanks. And very tasty they were too.

posted by Jamie, on board the Esperanza

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