We always eat well on COMFORT, but about once a month or so, we have some pretty special grub! Well this month, it was steak and lobster! Two of my very favorites!
That was delicious! Now I have the strength to go on with the blog!
La Union is a small town located in the Southwest portion of El Salvador, about a good stone’s throw from Honduras and Nicaragua. It is a beautiful part of the country with green EVERYWHERE!! We have a very aggressive medical mission here in El Salvador with a total of five medical site locations reaching from La Union up to San Miguel, nearly an hour by bus away.
During our time here in El Salvador, we were visited by Rear Admiral Dullea, the Deputy Commander of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I was able to escort her ashore as we together visited two of our medical sites. CAPT Ware (Hospital CO) and CAPT Negus (Mission Commander) met us when we arrived ashore and together we visited the sites.
This has been a challenging port for us. Due to the geography surrounding La Union and the lack of port services, we are forced to be anchored out with an 11 nautical mile small boat transfer to get ashore. We also have a significant current to deal with depending on the tides, so the trip ashore can take between an hour if the tides are with us, and nearly two hours if they’re not. The waterway is also full of floating debris (trees, logs, etc.) making small boat operations too dangerous to do at night. Typically, we would move about 140 people ashore daily by small boat. That amounts to two trips each for our two “Hospitality” boats. If we were to do that here, it would take us four hours to get those people ashore and another four hours to get them back, only leaving a few hours in the day to see patients. Another confounding factor, has been the sea state. Typically in the afternoon, the sea state rises and makes it dangerous to transfer people by small boat back to the ship. The bottom line is that this has been a very difficult mission site from a logistics perspective.
That hasn’t stopped our people from excelling!! For every problem, there has been a solution. For every difficulty, there have been devoted people who work through the issue and continue to do what we’re here to do: Help the people of La Union. Even though working in dangerous heat (today’s heat index is forecast to reach 130 degrees!), with no Air Conditioning, our medical and dental teams have done amazing work. Averaging over 1,900 patients per day, our hospital staff spends four days and three nights ashore before they are relieved and return to the ship for a brief respite.
So how has this been received by the people of La Union? Well the Mayor of the city presented the Key to the city to our Mission Commander, CAPT Negus. This is the first time (including a visit by President Hoover) that the Key has ever been presented to an American. But of course, we’re not here to collect accolades, we’re here to help people, train ourselves and our partners, and build relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime!