Once again, sorry, because this should have been posted in November. It is difficult sometimes to keep up with all the events here on the web page, but it all is too important to leave out.
Miles Stafford, experienced Advanced Paramedic, Flight medic and Combat medic, visited us in BYT for several days. How privileged we were. His consistent cheerful attitude, strength, intelligence and adaptability to jungle life in our many villages, held me in amazement! He very easily carried the heaviest backpack to other villages, comfortably sat on the floor in the local’s huts, ate their food with his fingers and worked along with me in treating the sick. BletJhaw and I really enjoyed his help and company!
Let me add that he is now doing the work that he came here to do: The start up and operation of one of the world’s most remote ambulance and rescue operations in Myanmar. He works with a team providing the highest quality emergency medical care and training in this far away part of the world! Please go to his blog site and check out his most strenuous, and wild adventures in India as well as Myanmar at: memsmedic1.tumblr.com He is a prolific writer and has great photography. I know you will enjoy it.
But first he visited us in BYT!
I chose with his permission, to enter his own blog post describing his visit to BYT. It is so interesting to hear other people’s thoughts about our mission project.
Miles Stafford wrote:
Finally we were on our way to the clinic! The truck was heavily loaded with the supplies we would need including food, medicine, and a motorbike as we started our 7 ½ hour journey. In addition to the nurse and I, Thara Blet Jhaw, a good friend of mine from when I was in Thailand before and the nurses invaluable clinic running partner, was with us also.
For the first half hour we drove south on the main road following the river. We took a short detour to stop at the market and pick up some vegetables, eggs, and our lunch, then we continued on until we came to a small road that looked more like a driveway than a road and drove into the jungle.
Up and down we went (mostly up) on an incredibly steep one- lane cement road past recently clear-cut swaths of jungle where fields of tapioca, mountain rice, and corn had all been planted by hand and is just now starting to be harvested by hand. Because the road is so narrow we had to honk at every plentiful hairpin corner in order to minimize our chances of a collision.
After a couple hours we arrived at the halfway point; a beautiful pagoda situated at the top of one of the many mountains. Although we were halfway to the village distance wise, we were hardly a third of the way there time wise, because the cement now ended and the dirt road with rocks and ENORMOUS ruts began.
The mountains are so steep here that in order to cut out a space for the one lane track (without a shoulder of course) the bank on the uphill side of the road is 30 feet high in places!
As we ground along in 2nd gear 4WD we kept our eyes open for wild elephants that are known to like this section of jungle and hate people. Every once in a while the truck would make a strange clanking sound from the front axle but it seemed to be driving ok so we kept going and hoped for the best.
After another hour we came to a shortcut, but we could not take it because it is so narrow only motorbikes can use it. Last year a bulldozer came out to try and widen the road to make it safe for trucks but fell over the edge himself!
Eventually we gained enough altitude that we drove into a pine tree forest mixed with thorn trees and bamboo thickets where we stopped for lunch.
Several hours later we dropped down into another valley and after crossing and fording 3 large streams (actually the same stream 3 times) we drove into the village the clinic is in. We drove through the gate, up one last steep hill, and arrived at our destination as the shadows were lengthening.
The clinic is in a remarkable location sitting on a hill overlooking the village. It is surrounded by fruit trees and has an amazing view of the valley below and the mountains above.
The rest of that evening we worked on unloading the truck and cleaning the dust, spiders, and jungle thorn sized centipedes out of the building and getting everything ready for the next day.
The next morning our first patients started to arrive! A few villagers from nearby villages had passed us on motorbikes on our way in and spread the word that the nurse was back so we had lots of work lined up for us.
Over the next several days we treated ulcers, rashes, anemia, blood pressure problems, headache, stomach aches, muscle pain, coughing, congestion, infections, skin problems, and a multitude of other complaints some of which were esoterically described such as “heavy head”, “rotting insides”, “fry smell”, or “swirling blood ”.
The villagers don’t have any money and aren’t expected to pay but they are so grateful for the care they receive that they give us small bags of freshly harvested mountain rice, pumpkins, giant cucumbers, and wild vegetables and herbs that they harvest in the jungle as gifts.
When there were no patients, there is plenty of other work to do. Thara Blet Jhaw and I worked on weeding the garden and flower beds and weed eating the grass. Thara Mu even dredged the mud and grass out of the drainage ditch around the building!
One morning we woke up and there was no water in our cistern! The rainy season had just ended so there should have been plenty of water for several more months. Fortunately we had two gravity fed water filters in the clinic so we still had a little drinking water and there was the stream nearby that we used for bathing. After cutting a path through the jungle following the pipe from our cistern to the water supply we found out that the pipe was packed full of dirt and sand!
After lots of hard work with no supplies, Thara was able to clear out the pipeline and then we jumped into the cistern and emptied out the muddy water and piles of dirt and sand that had accumulated in the bottom and scrubbed it clean before letting it fill up again.
Besides having patients come see us at the clinic, we visited several villages with backpacks of medical supplies also. One village required a long hike through the jungle up and down steep mountains and across several small streams.
One stretch of our hike to this village passed through what the nurse and Thara affectionately called “leech lane” because the tall, thick underbrush formed a long tunnel over the trail down a mountainside with lots of shade from the canopy layer and is always crawling with leeches who like to sit on leaves and drop down onto any passerby! We walked as fast as the terrain would allow, but when we got to the bottom we still found leeches on ourselves!
After we arrived in the village we were invited to set up our temporary clinic headquarters in a villagers bamboo house and all the villagers who were not out in the jungle harvesting rice came over to visit with us and get medicine for various illnesses. After treating all the patients who came for help the grandmother cooked us a meal of rice and pumpkin that we ate with our fingers sitting on the floor!
Finally, after many wonderful experiences, it was time for me to leave Beyortah and rendezvous with the Myanmar Free Ambulance team to continue setting up the groundwork for ambulance operations inside Myanmar!
On our way out of the mountains the truck started sounding worse and worse. Going around corners it would pop and grind and would hardly steer, Thara had to make skillful 3 point turns on some corners.
Suddenly there was an extra loud bang so we stopped to have a look and saw that the left front CV joint had broken!
Well we couldn’t just call a tow truck and we didn’t want to sit there and not do anything so we limped out the last 90 km at a snails pace straight to the mechanics shop with the noise getting louder and louder as the axle grease wore off.
After everything was squared away with the truck I said goodbye and went to meet up with my team!