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Two Emergency Medical Situations Put Matamaka to the Test

Two very real emergency medical situations arose during the time spent training our island medics in Matamaka Village.

On the morning of our third day of training, one of our island medics, Susi, called Craig’s cell phone. A member of her community had been moved to the dock in a wheelbarrow, writhing with pain in her swollen foot. While her family prepared the village dinghy for a journey to the hospital in Neiafu, Susi summoned us to first assess the immobile patient since trips to the hospital are quite expensive.

We rushed to shore. Susi told us that the patient may be suffering from gout, but that she may also have stepped on a stone fish while wading in the shallows the day before. We took a medical history and quickly determined that the patient was, in fact, suffering from a repeated acute gout attack. Susi had asked the right questions and made the right call. We helped the patient aboard the village boat and sent her on her way.


This was a learning moment for our crew. Our debriefing that day led to a few minor tweaks in our training process. We also developed a small note card for medics to store inside their cell phone cases so that they can be sure to ask the right questions during medical emergencies like this one.

Just when we thought we couldn’t be prouder of our island medic team, a small boy stumbled into our training session with blood dripping from his hand. A fingernail hung by a thread from his pointer. Susi and the Matamaka school principle, Va’ati, sprung to action. They calmed the patient, cleaned his wound, removed the nail and swiftly bandaged him up. He fought hard against his tears throughout the episode; his only yelp occurred at the sight of a small pair of medical scissors. He leapt to rejoin the soccer game outside as soon as his bandage was finished.



Susi and Va’ati were joined by Ryne, a school teacher, Latu, the Town Officer, and Seneti, a resident of Matamaka. During a section of our training covering diet, Ryne suggested we design a cooking class that teaches trainees how to use the resources available to them to cut back on salt, oil, starch and sugar. Ayla, our Community Manager, jumped at the opportunity to help. She prepared spice packs for each participant to take home after the class.



We thought this was goodbye, but our medical team invited us back on Saturday night for a ceremony to thank us. Susi and Ryne gave heartfelt speeches through tear-filled eyes and the room swelled with emotion. Ryne thanked us for the night we brought a projector to the hall for a screening of Moana. Some of the children had never seen a film before, he explained; they asked him daily when we would be back to play soccer with them. Susi thanked us for her second year of training and told stories of the ways that our supplies had helped members of her village escape dire situations over the course of the past year. Tukula Inamo, the Chief of Matamaka, presented us with gifts alongside the medics and schoolchildren.



We bade farewell to everyone but Susi. She has offered us her assistance in recruiting, translating and training medics on the remaining islands for the duration of our 2017 expedition. She has even arranged for her parents to relocate and care for her daughter while she’s away. We couldn’t be more excited to call her an official member of the Floating Foundation crew.

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