Aug. 17, 2017 entry:
LELEUVIA, FIJI (WNCN) — After a day on Leleuvia, I am beginning to slowly transition back to Western life.
Simple things such as hot showers, healthy food, warm beds and indoor plumbing are now precious to me.
The rest of my medical team arrived safely to Leleuvia yesterday. The volunteers here have been amazing and have faced great adversity. Many have developed GI infections due to contaminated water, but fortunately most are improving with antibiotics and re-hydration.
One volunteer has had a serious coral injury that will now require surgery. She stepped on a piece of coral a few days ago and has now developed a serious infection in her heel that is moving up her leg. We were able to extract the coral on Batiki but she will now need a more extensive surgery and intravenous antibiotics in order to save her foot. It is likely that she will be medevaced to the United States early next week.
I am humbled by the resiliency of my team and especially the way that the villagers of Batiki rise and meet every single challenge that is placed before them. We have only had to cope with these difficult conditions for a short time. These proud people overcome these issues every single day.
The clinic on Leleuvia was well-received. I provided check-ups for all of the staff and others who live on the resort island. The food here has been wonderful and the time I have spent with my medical team (and new best friends) has been life changing.
Today I will enjoy cool ocean breezes, a little snorkeling and the gorgeous Fijian sunshine. Tomorrow I make my way back home — flights to Australia then off to the U.S. the next day.
In spite of all of the difficulties that we have faced, all of us continue to smile and we all look back on our time on Batiki with great fondness. We miss our new Batiki friends and look forward to going back again next year. I have a new respect for the importance of family, friends and community.
It is my hope that our trip to Batiki has made a difference for those who live there. I feel that those on Batiki have given me far more than I have given them. I am forever changed. I look forward to seeing my CBS North Carolina family soon and sharing my amazing experience with all of you as well!
Aug. 15, 2017 entry:
BATIKI, FIJI (WNCN) — Today I leave Batiki for another island — Leleuvia. It has been an amazing experience and I have made new lifelong friends here.
Leaving is bittersweet. I am excited to find a hot shower and a soft bed and indoor plumbing, but I am sad to leave the islanders behind. I have been well-cared for on Batiki and I have learned so much while on the island.
I have a new appreciation for the simple things in life. I am learning to live in and for the moment, rather than always looking to the future. I have learned to be more flexible and to adapt to ever-changing conditions and circumstances. I have pushed myself beyond my previous limits and I have a new “world view” after my experience on Batiki.
The people of Batiki are warm, caring and extremely happy. They need so much — electricity, clean water, and access to healthcare — but are very satisfied with what they have. Their focus on community and family is unlike anything I have ever seen. Families eat and work together and take care of one another. We in the U.S. and in N.C. can learn a great deal from them
Leleuvia is a small island halfway between Batiki and the mainland. The majority of the island is a resort for tourists and where I will be staying for a few days as I transition back into the western world.
Today in Leleuvia I will set up a medical clinic for the resort staff and those that live on the island. I plan to enjoy every single moment here. I look forward to my return to Batiki one day soon. For now, I say “Bula” and “Vinaka” to my Fijian friends and family on Batiki.
Aug. 12, 2017 entry:
BATIKI, FIJI (WNCN) — Today is Saturday on Batiki. The village is busy with activity and the sun is shining bright, which is great so that we can get some electricity today from the solar panels. This morning, we began work on structures that are called “chicken tractors.”
I for one, am looking forward to their construction as there are some very noisy roosters that sleep near my hut and they tend to begin their morning routine long before I want to begin mine — close to 4 a.m. every single day.
These devices corral the wild chickens on the island and serve a dual purpose: they create an area of soil (under the coop) that is well fertilized and also create a place to collect eggs. Currently, the villagers have no way to collect eggs or chickens.
With this device, the chickens come inside the structure (lured by bits of coconut) and then live inside for several days. They lay eggs and begin to roost. The eggs are collected and consumed. Once the area of land is well fertilized, the structure is moved its length to a new location and the process of fertilization begins again. Amazingly, most of the materials were gathered by the villagers: bamboo, and cord for fastening the pieces together. Our team supplied a few tin nails and a piece or two of tin for the roof.
Along the beach, another group of volunteers conducted swimming lessons for the children. They all seemed to have a great time and most of them are quite good in the water. It’s amazing to me just how friendly the kids are — they soak up any attention that you give them and are so interested in everything that we are doing.
This afternoon, my host Rex showed me how to harvest coconuts. On the mainland, he tells me that coconuts are $5 each. Here on the island, the natives harvest them every single day and drink and eat them as much as they like.
Rex is my new best friend. He is always careful to make sure that we have everything we need and that we are as comfortable as island life will allow.
I miss home but I am inspired every single day by the people of this fantastic island.
Aug. 11, 2017 entry:
BATIKI, FIJI (WNCN) — We awoke to lots of rain today. The island is a bit of a muddy mess but the water is much needed. The island has no natural water supply so all water is collected via rain barrels. Apparently they have had a long dry spell and many water tanks are quite low. Today the villages is very excited about the prospects of fuller tanks!
Today the clinic ran a bit smoother. We opened at 9am sharp and saw patients all morning. We had a great flow of folks coming in all morning and saw both adults, children and even a baby. We were able to provide essential immunizations to the baby — the same ones we all take for granted here in the states.
I am learning a great deal about Fijian village customs and I am learning to adapt to a very different diet. We have lots of fish but a great deal of root vegetables and rice as well. They put pumpkin in almost everything (we even had a pumpkin curry last night). The fish is always fresh — the men go out at night to spear fish for the food we will eat the next day. I gave my host family a North Carolina state flag and they honored us all by hanging it on their wall — it’s nice to see a symbol of home out here in the South Pacific.
Tomorrow is Saturday and the medical clinic will be closed for the weekend (other than emergencies) as per Fijian customs. I plan to go out with the men fishing and try to learn about handling a spear! I will let you know how I fare with my next entry.
I am missing all of you at home and look forward to reporting back upon my return to CBS North Carolina in another week or so.
Aug. 10, 2017 entry:
BATIKI, FIJI (WNCN) — Today we opened the medical clinic on Batiki at the island nurse’s station.
The clinic was fairly well stocked and we were able to add lots to the supplies with the things that we brought with us.
We opened at 9 a.m. today and by 1 p.m. we had seen more than 40 patients. All of the children from the Batiki district school came over (all at once) and we worked through them as quickly as possible.
Once the children came, adults started to file in and I was surprised to see the variety of cases. I saw lots of high blood pressure and diagnosed a couple of new diabetics. My team and I also discovered a case of lupus and another more rare disease.
We all learned to work together in less than ideal conditions but ultimately we were able to provide care to lots of islanders today. Fortunately, the island nurse had a well-stocked medicine cabinet and we were able to treat most of the ailments that we encountered today.
After we finished work at the clinic, I faced the daunting task of figuring out how to take a shower without running water. My hosts taught me how to get water from a rain collection cistern and take it to an enclosure where I used a bowl to pour water over my head and body, then I soaped up (with soap I brought with me from my last hotel stay) and then poured cold water back over myself in order to rinse away the suds. Not at all like our showers at home, but it did the trick!
Later in the afternoon, we took a walk around the island and discovered beautiful beaches and amazing coral that was filled with sea life.
Hopefully tomorrow I will go snorkeling after work in the clinic. More to follow!
Aug. 9, 2017 entry:
LELEUVIA, Fiji (WNCN) — Today we set out for Batiki on two watercraft — due to high winds and difficult current we had to switch from sail to motorized boats.
The boats were staffed by experienced Fijian sailors. While the winds remained strong, around 10 a.m. today we made a break for the island. The seas were rough but not nearly as bad as they were on Monday. The average swells had settled to five to eight feet.
As we left Leleuvia the islanders stood at the dock and sang to us, thanking us for coming to visit them.
The entire team was transported safely across open water from Leleuvia and we ultimately landed in Batiki around three hours later. I was completely overwhelmed by the way in which we were welcomed.
The entire village turned out and greeted our boats as we came ashore. Once ashore, we attended a welcoming ceremony in the village and we each introduced ourselves.
After the ceremony, I met with the island nurse and worked with her to get the clinic stocked and ready to open on Thursday morning. We met with the villagers again and announced our clinic hours and began preparations for the next day.
I was then escorted to my home for the next 10 days and settled in without my new “Batiki Family” — a gentleman named Rex and his wife and children.
Today was an amazing day. We made it safely to Batiki and I met some of the most amazing, loving people.
I am very much looking forward to getting to work tomorrow serving the people of the island of Batiki by providing healthcare to every single villager who lives here.
More tomorrow…for now, goodnight (we are a day ahead of you guys in North Carolina and its nighttime on Wednesday here!)
Aug. 8, 2017 entry:
LELEUVIA, Fiji (WNCN) — Yesterday was a difficult day. We attempted to make our way via sailboat to Batiki
What was supposed to be three-hour journey turned into a nine-hour ordeal.
As we sailed into open water the winds shifted and began blowing at 25 knots and the waves rose to 15-20 feet.
Many in our party became seasick and dehydrated. Waves crashed over the deck and everyone was wet. The temperature dropped as the sun set and I became concerned about hypothermia.
We came within three miles of Batiki but had to turn back due to the high winds and dangerous reef. Fortunately we were able to land at a nearby island where we were given food and a place to stay.
Today the seas remain rough and we are unable to make it to Batiki again — we will try tomorrow.
Our hosts on Leleuvia have welcomed us for another night.
Hopefully we will reach Batiki tomorrow.
Aug. 7, 2017 entry:
SUVA, Fiji (WNCN) — Today we leave for Batiki. We had our cultural training session last night and learned about the many customs of the Fijian villagers we will be living with for the next two weeks. The amount of information we were given in a short time during our session was overwhelming.
There is so much to learn and so little time left before we are thrust into a completely different world. While I am excited to embark on this adventure, I am….in a word…scared. I do not want to offend the villagers (especially my host family) by making any cultural mistakes.
For the first time, I am confronted with the reality of no electricity and no modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing and the like.
I have promised myself that I would live in the moment this trip and I continue to push myself to learn to become more flexible, but I must admit, the venture into the unknown today and the opportunity to push myself far beyond my comfort zone has me spooked.
We are getting ready to meet as a team and board a bus to our transport ship in just a few hours. Upon arrival, we will be expected to adorn a traditional Fijian sulu and we will be honored by our hosts by being invited to participate in a native Kava ceremony (which has many complex traditions that I must master quickly).
I plan to approach this day with an open mind and an open heart (although my heart may be racing most of the day).
More to follow and, as the natives say….Bula! and Vinaka!
Aug. 6, 2017 entry:
SUVA, Fiji (WNCN) — I have safely arrived in Fiji — it took 2 planes and a long car ride but I have successfully made it to Suva.
Tonight we will undergo extensive cultural training with our Fijian liaison here. Early tomorrow we will be loading a traditional Fijian water craft for our long journey to Batiki via sailboat. As we will be living alongside the villagers — as guests in their homes — it is important that we all learn about the customs and traditions tonight so that we may be very gracious guests.
It is a great honor to be asked into the home of a traditional Fijian and, while I am very excited, I am also quite apprehensive tonight for the adventure that lies ahead. I want to make sure that I am respectful and that I honor their customs of the villagers appropriately.
However, from the moment I arrived in Fiji, it has been apparent that the people who live here are quite friendly. Everyone smiles and each person I have met has been excited to speak to me and my team.
I sit overlooking the Pacific ocean tonight and I am truly moved — the beauty of this place is unmatched. The air is cool, the sun is bright and the seascapes are some of the most beautiful I have seen. It is truly a privilege to be here and I look forward to my journey to the village tomorrow morning to serve the people of Batiki.
I will hope to continue to update in the days ahead.
The leader of our Sea Mercy team has told me that it is likely that I will be able to uplink to a satellite during our time on Batiki in order to continue to post!
Aug. 2, 2017 entry:
BRISBANE, Australia (WNCN) — Well I made it safely to Australia (my first stop on this adventure). When I settled in to my hotel I realized that there was a 13.5-hour time difference from Raleigh — It’s Wednesday here and only Tuesday at home! I arrived quite tired but I immediately headed to meetings at the University of Adelaide. For the next 3 days I am working with Professor Prash Sanders (@PrashSanders) at the University of Adelaide as a guest professor—I am working with Prof. Sanders to discover better ways to improve the care of patients with Heart Rhythm disorders—particularly Atrial Fibrillation.
Dr. Sanders has developed a specialized intensive program of PREVENTION and risk factor modification that allows us to improve patient care. His research is recognized world wide and I am thankful that I will be spending the next few days observing his operation in hopes of developing a similar program in the United States. Today I am scheduled to meet with medical students, residents, researchers and physicians and will be giving several lectures on how social media and mainstream television can make a difference in promoting health and wellness in the community.
In only two days I will be off to Nadi, Fiji, to begin my journey to the remote island of Batiki. Once in Fiji, it will take me two airplane rides and a boat trip to reach the island. I continue to learn about flexibility and working with others as I continue my travels. From my brief time in Australia over the last 24 hours, I have learned that people are the same no matter what part of the world they call home—everyone has dreams, aspirations and a desire to do well for themselves and their families. Australia is an amazingly friendly place and the people are quite welcoming.
More updates to follow. I am gaining on my jet lag and looking forward to my day ahead working with doctors and patients in Australia.
July 31, 2017 entry:
LOS ANGELES (WNCN) — Well, I have already learned something about myself on this trip — I can be flexible.
Our Flight to LAX from RDU was uneventful and once in Los Angeles, I hurriedly made my way to the gate for my flight to Brisbane, Australia last night. That’s where things started to fall apart. Our plane was late arriving to the gate and we had a two hour boarding delay. Once we were finally on board, it was around 1 a.m. Pacific Time and I was anxious to get underway. We moved onto the tarmac and experienced delays of around an hour or so there. We finally made it to the runway and it was our turn to take off when the pilot suddenly pulled us off the runway and moved us to the side.
A young man on board was having a seizure and needed medical attention. I went to help and by the time I arrived at his seat, the seizure was over. However, the pilot correctly made the decision to take us back to the gate and have the gentleman evaluated by EMS. We proceeded back to the gate (now it’s around 3 a.m. Pacific Time) and the passenger was assisted by emergency medical personnel.
We were then told we needed to go to another gate to refuel. However, no ground crews were on site at LAX at that time so we moved back to our original gate and were told that we would have to disembark and that our flight was cancelled. At 4:30 a.m., we wearily exited the plane and made our way to nearby hotels.
Fortunately I found a place to stay around 6 a.m. that allowed me to check in and sleep. After sleeping for a few hours, I have finally made my way back to the airport and I am excited to announce that my airline has me on a flight to Australia tonight. If all goes well, I will complete the next leg of my journey and arrive there safely tomorrow morning.
This initial part of my trip has taught me to learn to take things in stride. I have always been an anxious traveler and do not do well with delays or SNAFUs along the way. Last night I decided that I would not worry about those things that I cannot control but learn to live in the moment.
While sitting on the tarmac for hours, I read a book, watched a movie and had a conversation with a nearby passenger. It is my goal to continue to approach this trip with an open mind and an open heart in order to achieve my goals of personal growth.
Keep your fingers crossed, I am hoping to make it to Australia by tomorrow. From there it’s on to Batiki.
July 30, 2017 entry:
RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — And so my journey to the South Pacific has started.
It is with excitement — and admittedly a bit of trepidation — that my trip to bring healthcare to the natives of the island of Batiki begins.
Packing was difficult as I needed to get everything into two carry-on bags for the trip. I spent most of today with my family enjoying the company of my wife and teenager for brunch. My mom and dad came over to join us.
After a nap, I showered and prepared to leave for the airport. Last minute bag checks and then off to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
I am committed to making a difference in the lives of the people of Fiji and I am hopeful that I will return home transformed — a better man, a better doctor, and a better journalist — for having made the trip.
Tonight I fly to Los Angeles, then off to Australia. I land in Australia on Tuesday morning and will post more updates then.