Mercy Continues Care for Indonesians
volunteer doctor from Japan comforts an infant prior to the
patient being medically evacuated from the island of Nias,
Indonesia to the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS
Mercy for treatment.
by Sandra M. Palumbo / U.S.
The Navy hospital
ship USNS Mercy is becoming a common sight off the coast of
the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the commander of the ship’s
medical treatment facility said by phone from Nias, Indonesia.
Navy Capt. Mark Llewellyn said the Mercy had been on its way home after assisting
in the tsunami relief efforts when new orders sent the ship back to Indonesia
to provide care to the people of Nias after an earthquake.
Banda Aceh on the 14th of March,” he said. “We then
started our return trip to San Diego with a much reduced staff.
We stopped for four days working in Alor, Indonesia, and had
done two days in Dili, East Timor, when we were called again
to return back to western Sumatra and Nias, specifically for
earthquake disaster relief.”
The area was
hit by a tsunami that followed a strong earthquake on Dec. 26,
2004. Another major earthquake- at a magnitude 8.7 – occurred
on March 28. The most recent one, at 6.0, occurred in the region
April 5. The epicenter of that earthquake was situated between
Simeulue and Nias islands off the coast of Sumatra.
The Mercy was
met in Nias by members of Project Hope, a nongovernmental medical
and humanitarian organization. Military medical personnel from
military medical facilities in San Diego, Bethesda, Md., and
other locations also met the ship, bringing the staff close to
the 600 people aboard while the Mercy was off the coast of Sumatra’s
The ship has
been off Nias for nearly two weeks and has treated 700 patients
ashore, the captain said, adding that 45 patients are currently
being treated onboard.
done 48 major surgeries aboard the ship,” Llewellyn said. “These
are really significant surgical procedures. A lot of them are
orthopedic in nature from injuries … received from the
team also has done a lot of dental work and passed out a significant
number of eyeglasses, he said. In Nias, the number of eyeglasses
hovers around 400. The figures from Banda Aceh put the number
of eyeglasses near 5,000.
The Mercy has
treated more than 10,000 patients since arriving off the coast
of Banda Aceh in February, Llewellyn said.
When the Mercy
set out for Indonesia on Jan. 5, it carried a number of nongovernmental
organization representatives, a first for the ship. It was an
experiment that worked well, Llewellyn said.
very well, because we went in representing the spirit and heart
of America, which only knows how to do things one way,” he
said. “Any obstacles here were instantly overcome. In fact,
we didn’t have any obstacles here on the ship. Medical
professionals working together – Navy medicine alongside top-notch
civilian medicine – it was just a tremendous partnership.”
guiding principle going in was to ask, “How can we help
you?” Llewellyn said. “We went in with the spirit
of cooperation, coordination and collaboration with the others
wasn’t one-sided, either, Llewellyn said.
been forever changed by the warmth with which we have been received
here and the relationships that we have established in both Banda
Aceh and Nias island,” he said.
The Mercy anticipates
departing near the end of April, Llewellyn said.