My Sea Mercy Adventure

This rotation to the Fijian islands was simply awesome. The perfect blend of: adventure, challenge, worthwhile and appreciated work, relaxation, exercise, friendship and fun. And I got to do it all with my lovely girlfriend (now fiancé)!

I like to know how my charitable dollars are spent and whom they benefit. For Sea Mercy they were invested well, and contributed directly to the medical/physical well being of nearly 500 remote islanders who were seen by the team and were clearly appreciative of the eye, dental, medical and pharmacological help they received.

In addition and perhaps most importantly, the Health Ministry of Fiji was directly involved in the expedition and was provided a detailed record of each patient to facilitate follow-up and continued care for chronic or surgical problems. From a remote/travel medicine standpoint that is about as good as it gets, as it is counter-productive to simply treat someone with a month of medicine for something like diabetes, and then have them return into the condition they were previously in with no further care.

The vessel “Dragonfly” was our domicile for the two weeks of sailing island to island. Great boat, very comfortable, hand built by Captain AL and his first mate/wife Jill, terrific people and tremendous hosts. There were lots of poorly marked and questionably charted reefs to navigate around and they did a safe and effective job, to include many safe transports with supplies through the surf in a rubber dingy. Then of course there was the great food and quick wit!

The team of healthcare providers and volunteers were all top notch folks, working hard by day and making congenial company at day’s end, and the special friendships we made through shared adventure will be enjoyed into the future.

The fishing between islands always kept us in fresh Mahi-Mahi, the snorkeling was amazing, and I still miss bathing in the sea at day’s end, though I must admit a fondness for my hot shower at home!

I almost cancelled this trip after selected as a volunteer because I get terribly seasick, resulting in misery lasting a couple days even after getting off a boat. However that was not a problem at all no matter the sea state on this trip. The solution? A scopolamine 1.5MG/72HR transdermal patch. Put it on the night before you get on the boat, it lasts three days, less if you are doing lots of snorkeling, so bring extra. And, if that doesn't ensure your complete comfort in a rolling sea, add one dose of Meclizine 25 MG when you start feeling queasy and it will solve the problem! Truly, better living through chemistry! I was able to thoroughly enjoy the sailing experience misery-free, and it seemed to work great for all others with a similar constitution.

In medicine there are seldom medals or pay raises for a job well done. In the USA it is a highly regulated, litigious and sometimes tense environment. The rewards I get from it are the challenges of arriving at correct diagnosis, or to actually fix a problem, the camaraderie of co-workers, and most importantly, the appreciation of the patient for my efforts. Our team was able to make a positive difference in the lives of the many people we assisted, and the Fiji people were warm, friendly, helpful, and highly appreciative of our work! The environment was beautiful, the sea life incredible, the work challenging, the camaraderie and recreation superb. That made it a perfect trip!

We are already working on putting a team together for a future Sea Mercy rotation!

Lloyd McKinney
Physician Assistant

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