Healing Bodies and Minds: Watch the Mission at Work

Dr. Ansdell
Dr. Ansdell
Ken Lee
Ken Lee

ST. BERNARD, Southern Leyte (KHNL)- Dr. Ansdell gave us a tour of the medical clinic. "They come in and wait then they get registered. Then they go to a makeshift receiving area and get their vital signs taken. Then they'll see one of the doctors here. We've got 3 or 4 working right now. We've been in this office for 3 days. This is a nurses station and 2 physicians are working out of this area."

The crowded waiting room hints at just how many the clinic is servicing- over 200 patients a day. The medical staff say the need is even greater than that.

Dr. Ansdell elaborates, "We're seeing a whole range, from typical things we'd see in Hawai'i - high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid problems...lots of respiratory problems, some diarrhea, rashes, scabies. In this room we have some of our supplies. We're managing to share supplies with this rural health clinic where we're working. There's minor surgery going on in this room off to the side. They have 1 patient now."

Aloha Medical Mission's Robert Sy, M.D. took a break from his surgery. "While working on a patient there was this breast mass which was noticed about 9 months ago. By the looks of it, it is non-malignant."

Some volunteers heal the body. Dr. Ansdell says, "It's very rewarding to come here. It's hot, humid, and we have long days, but it's a very rewarding experience."

Others take care of the mind. Social worker Ken Lee heads the mental health team. AMM's Ken Lee communicates, "I came out as a mental health volunteer because this specific mission addressed the disaster situation. We call this psycho education where you're talking to people about normal reactions to an abnormal event."

They surveyed the survivors to assess the level of trauma. Lee furthers, "The value of an education session like this is letting them know to be patient, to take care of themselves, take care of each other, and in 3 months they'll heal themselves. You can have bouts of intense anger followed by bouts of depression and go through peaks and valleys. Emotionally unstable, irritable, stressed most of the time."

At the end of the seesion, Lee's mental health team member David Ansdell, psychology major at Dartmouth College, gives the children candy- sweets to offset the bitterness.

Ken watches and adds, "Usually by the time the session ends you see a different face sitting in front of you. You see someone a little stronger, who has a little more ability to understand what's going on with them, and hopefully with better coping skills. We covered 17 rooms of survivors, each room had 35 to 50 people. It was exhausting but very rewarding."