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Cambodians receive much needed medical, dental, vision assistance [from US Marines]

Written By vibykhmer on Thursday, June 4, 2009 | 11:00 PM


Children from the school next to the temple and the children of the patients waiting in line play with each other on the temple grounds. They were very curious and keen to interact with the Marines and sailors of 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz).
Petty Officer 3rd Class Pinch Santos, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, takes blood pressure reading of a Buddhist monk during the Cambodia Interoperability Program 2009. Thousands of people came from all over the province to receive medical care from the combined U.S. and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz).

A young patient is held by his mother while a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman with 3rd Medical Battalion, checks his pulse. Thousands of children were seen during the 10-day Cambodia Interoperability Program 2009 medical and dental civil action program. Many of them were suffering from infections and typical childhood ailments. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz).
United States Agency for International Development sponsored local nongovernmental organizations to set up informational displays on temple grounds providing health information to waiting patients. An avian flu display station passed out hats to raise awareness on the issue. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz).
Dentists and dental technicians with 3rd Medical Battalion, removed hundreds of teeth during the program. Dental saw an average of 100-150 patients everyday for dental surgery. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz).

Glimpse of Hope

Lance Cpl. Stefanie C. Pupkiewicz
http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil


WAT BAKAN, PURSAT PROVINCE, Cambodia (June 5, 2009) -- The provincial roads in Pursat, Cambodia, are unlit and relatively deserted at 1 a.m. On the morning of May 19, a woman on a motorbike clutching her sick infant in one arm rumbled down a two-lane highway.

She still has another hour's distance to cover before she reaches Wat Bakan, the district Buddhist temple, to receive treatment from the U.S. and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces at a combined medical and dental civil action project.

Her name is Chera and she arrives early knowing she will have to wait six more hours before the vans transporting the U.S. service members arrive and patient care begins for the day.

Despite her long journey and hardship, she could do nothing but smile and thank the service members for eventually helping her and her child.

Chera's story is just one of the 12,333 patient stories told to sailors from 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, along with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces doctors and medics providing medical, dental and vision care during Cambodia Interoperability Program 2009.

The operation began May 11 with a goal to see 1,000 patients a day during the 10-day mission. By the eighth day, the medical and dental civil action project reached the 10,000 patient mark.

Prior to the start of CIP '09, medical and dental civil action program planners coordinated with local nongovernmental organizations associated with the United States Agency for International Development to provide health education on everything from safe sex to preventing the spread of avian flu.

When the project wrapped up May 20, Brig. Gen. William Faulkner, the commanding general of 3rd MLG, arrived on site for the closing ceremony and to express his pride in his Marines and sailors for their hard work.

"The operation has been a complete success and has strengthened the relationship between the United States and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces," Faulkner said.

Throughout the program, the interoperability between both countries' service members was apparent in all areas of the operation, from the U.S. Navy hospital corpsmen working alongside RCAF medics, to the U.S. Navy doctors working general triage side by side with the RCAF doctors.

"The U.S. Navy optometrists worked especially close to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces ophthalmologist," said U.S. Navy Lt. Robert Senko, an optometrist with 3rd Med. Bn. "The U.S. optometrists triaged the patients and provided them with eye exams and glasses while the Royal Cambodian ophthalmologist removed cataracts and pterygiums obstructing the patients' vision."

The mission was fulfilling for all involved because the fruits of their labor were immediately apparent, according to Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Barrett, a hospital corpsman with 3rd Med. Bn.

"I know we are taking out teeth, but I can see their happiness because they are out of pain. Pain that they have been in for a long time," said U.S. Navy Lt. Thomas Stinchfield, a dentist with 3rd Med. Bn.

In addition to pulling out infected teeth, the dental section of the project provided oral hygiene instruction to the Cambodians so they could take proper care of their remaining teeth.

Many of the people who received care had never seen a doctor, according to U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Bunthoeun Ham, the translator for 3rd Med. Bn.

"Most of the Cambodians treat their conditions and symptoms with medicinal plants that they grow," Ham said.

The medical and dental care offered by the service members was limited, but patients were referred to local free medical services.

"One of the things we have been doing is introducing a lot of the patients to some of the services available to them. These include malaria care, pregnancy care, and tuberculosis care that is available to them free of charge," said U.S. Navy Lt. Ryan Brown, a medical officer with 3rd Med. Bn. "Many of the Cambodians were unaware of the existence of these programs."

"We treat what we can here, and really, it's just a lot of smiling faces," said Brown.

Meanwhile, personnel from 3rd Med. Bn. are scheduled to deploy to Bangladesh this summer for another medical and dental civil action project.

Additionally, the government of Cambodia is expecting the return of U.S. Marines and sailors when combat engineers from Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 arrive for an engineering civil action project with the RCAF.



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