YWAM Medical Ship- Karine’s story, Part 1

On the 10th of May I climbed onto a Virgin Blue aircraft in Brisbane heading for Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. On my arrival I met up with 11 other volunteers at the airport, all of us a group of nervous and excited strangers going to the Gulf province with the YWAM Medical Ship. It didn’t take long before I was loving the dynamics and different personalities among our Primary Healthcare team and the other 50 volunteers on the ship…

As a Physiotherapist on the ship, I met a lot of great local people and got to hear some of their stories. One of the women I met was Ruth. I am going to tell you a bit about Ruth. She is around the age of 26, and lives in a riverbank village in the Gulf Province. She is not exactly sure about her age because she grew up in a culture that asks “why should you  keep track of  age?” They just don’t talk about age. She has two children, one around 6, the other 3 years old. In the morning, Ruth goes to the bank of the river, gets into her wooden canoe and looks for crabs and fish for the day’s lunch and dinner. Ruth brings the six year old to school at nine o’clock, and then she goes to the bush garden to make Sago and harvest vegetables bringing her baby-girl with her.

Sago is the Islanders “this goes with everything – food”. Asia has rice and the Northern Europe has potatoes, Papua New Guinea has Sago. The men cut down a Sago Palm, takes out the soft wooden  material inside the palm, and the women work it over and over again to squeeze all the juice out of the tree-trunk. It is hard and time-consuming work for a little piece of food that will last for a couple of family meals.

The work makes Ruth’s back hurt like crazy. Her back always hurts, ever since she was 16 years old. She explains it with someone casting a spell on her in her youth. It started with her left leg,then when she was 15 years old, she became very sick and had to go to the hospital for 5 months. They gave her medication and she got healed from her sickness… but her left leg was very painful and had stopped growing. Today the leg is 5-6 centimetres shorter than the right leg, and it makes  her whole body ache just to compensate for walking  & doing everyday things.

Ruth came to our clinic on the second day of our stay in Karati. Karati is like a shire containing four villages. They have a Healthcare Centre, a marked and a school, and four churches. The welcome we got when we arrived was like nothing I have seen before, it was amazing. Local flowers and fresh home-made palm decorations were covering the streets everywhere.

Anyway, Ruth came to our clinic at the Health centre and she asked if anyone could help her with the chronic back pain. After the triage she was send to me and the cause of her pain was immediately localised. With the difference between her left and right leg, she had to keep her right knee bended at all times. After discussing the situation with Hannah, my clinic leader, a decision was made to put our on-board handyman, Watto, on the case. He was happy to help and an immediate idea for Ruth…

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YWAM Byron Bay