The Solomon Islands are famous for their beautiful blue waters, magnificent coral reefs, golden beaches and amazing sea life.
These were not the reasons Copper Queen Medical Association physician Heidi Lodge and her husband Eric traveled 30 hours to get to when they went there on a two week long medical mission.
They traveled from island to island every day in dugout canoes and had little to no running water and electricity.
“They really don’t have running water or electricity so it’s very challenging,” Dr. Lodge said.
This was the couple’s second trip to the Western Province (Solomon Islands) organized by the Marovo Medical Foundation to visit these remote islands and bring vitally needed health care services to the residents.
“All these village people can’t get to the hospital so they don’t have much medical care,” she added. “There are doctors at the hospital on the main island and each village has a nurse. Nurses are trained and then return to their village to care for the villagers. She’s able to administer medicines, clean up wounds but she’s not a doctor.”
Many of the villagers suffer from the same ailments as the people in the U.S. but with little to no medical care.
“They suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes heart diseases, they have a lot of skin diseases because they live in the tropics there a lot of fungal diseases of the skin,” the doctor said.
According to Dr. Lodge about 50 percent of the medication they use during the trip comes from the Solomon government if they are lucky. Most of the medication and supplies comes from donations, samples and funding from the foundation.
On one of the islands a little clinic of sorts was built and the group of doctors will perform surgery’s there.
“We can do surgeries like gall bladder removal, repair hernias, these people couldn’t get these surgeries unless they go to the main island,” Dr. Lodge said.
Twelve doctors including Lodge served villagers from dawn until dusk. In the two weeks they were there they assisted over 1,200 patients.
Most patients were met in schools, village churches or individual homes. The team consisted of physicians, surgical technicians, pharmacists and medical assistants. They provided general medical, dental and eye care.
Each person donated not only their time but were also responsible for paying their travel and other expenses while there.
“It’s really rewarding, you’re taking care of these people and they really appreciate it,” she said. “We have to practice actual clinical medicine because there’s no lab testing or x-rays. We actually have to figure everything out because we don’t have the extra stuff. It’s very rewarding, it’s fun.”
The Province is approximately 1,300 miles northeast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean and the Solomon Islands is a collection of islands that form a sovereign country. Most of the islands have no electricity or running water, and the main mode of transportation is a dugout canoe.
The Foundation was launched by Sierra Vista resident Suzanne Daly, MD and her husband Allan. Their goal is to assist in expanding the extremely limited health care options currently available to the 30,000 people of the Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands. The Foundation has been conducting semi-annual medical missions for the past six years.