Focus on the Land
Mercy trip a learning curve
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
A NAVAL exercise in Vietnam has been a huge professional knowledge boost for leading medic Kataraina Ratapu from Tokomaru Bay.
She was one of eight NZ Defence Force healthcare specialists who completed a two-week deployment to Exercise Pacific Partnership on USNS Mercy.
She put her name forward for the mission because she wanted a different experience.
“It certainly turned out that way. I worked with very knowledgeable people from a wide range of specialties and nationalities. It was great to see the passion for their area of expertise.”
When not working in the sick bay on board the 1000-bed US Navy hospital ship, Ms Ratapu was assigned ashore to the various mobile medical civic aid projects to the south of Vinh in Vietnam.
“At one clinic I was able to shadow a doctor and see things I would never see in New Zealand. I saw cases of tuberculosis and infectious diseases that you just would not see at home. It has greatly broadened my understanding of regional medicine.”
A highlight for her was witnessing the changes the Pacific Partnership team could make to the lives of everyday people.
“One of our patients was an 85- year-old lady who lives on her own and can hardly walk. She needed a walking frame but couldn’t afford one. We were able to donate one to her and her response was fantastic. She was so happy and overwhelmed — she didn’t stop hugging everybody!”
Exercise Pacific Partnership is a US Navy-led annual multinational humanitarian relief exercise that has medical, engineering and veterinary civic aid projects in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Vietnam phase saw the team of more than 1200 hold 2000 medical treatments, perform 207 surgeries, and complete renovations and a new building for two health clinics.
NZ Defence Force participation in deployments like Exercise Pacific Partnership help the defence force to remain capable and poised to support humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations, such as the Samoan tsunami and Christchurch earthquake.
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