Shriners Adopts Kiribati Children in Medical Outreach

In a blessing to all youngsters in Kiribati, Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu has agreed to extend it’s Medical Outreach Program to the island nation and provide free orthopedic medical care at their hospital to those in need.

The decision was announced by Shriners Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Craig Ono at the conclusion of his team’s visit to Kiritimati (Christmas Island) last month and his evaluation of nearly 100 children there.

“We see the enormous need for help, and are proud to be able to be there for these beautiful children,” he said.

Shriners interest in Kiribati began with a presentation to it’s board of directors by Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc. (PIMA), in which it was pointed out that while the Shriners outreach program currently extends its help to such far-away Pacific regions as Fiji and Samoa, the Line Islands in Kiribati are closer to Honolulu and much more medically needy, says Carlton Smith, PIMA president.

The outreach team, consisting of Dr. Ono, his outreach assistant Eric Tsukamoto and nurse practitioner Cherlyn Caneda, worked for a week on the island examining children in need from each village, and identified eleven youngsters needing surgery now, Carlton said.

The first of eleven, a boy with dislocated elbow, is already in Honolulu for surgery, he said. Each of the remaining patients will be sent for care in order of the severity of their condition.

In addition, Dr. Ono said a team from his hospital will return to Kiritimati each year to assess those who have been treated and to examine new cases.

“This ongoing commitment is wonderful news for the children of this isolated island nation, where orthopedic surgery is generally not available.” Carlton said. “We are so very proud of Shriners and what they do to help those who cannot help themselves.”

While Shriners will provide and cover all costs of medical care when patients are in Honolulu, we at PIMA need to help with the costs of accommodations, meals and local transport, Carlton said.

Among patients to be helped in this first group of eleven are children with club feet, spinal scoliosis where the spine is not straight, humerus osteomyelitis, a severe infection of the bone; and spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.

Please help us make this worthwhile program a success by donating to the cause, Carlton said. “Just designate your donation for the care of orthopedic kids.”

U.S.A. Surgeon Reflects on Service To Others In Isolated Pacific Region

I was privileged recently to travel to Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the central Pacific nation of Kiribati with Carlton Smith of Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc. (PIMA), to work with the doctors and staff at the small Ronton Hospital there.

I had worked as a volunteer general surgeon at the hospital on two earlier occasions and have another trip planned again soon.

The privilege of working with the dedicated over-worked, under-supplied staff and doctors at Ronton Hospital is hard to over emphasize. The healthcare workers and the community demonstrates a compassionate and caring attitude toward each other and to us volunteers that is inspiring.

Dr. Craig Ono and his team from Shriner’s Hospital in Honolulu joined us for the second week to see children with orthopedic problems. They are working out a relationship with PIMA, Ronton Hospital and the Kiribati government to treat patients with serious orthopedic maladies at their hospital in Honolulu.

There are already several patients being readied for this imposing undertaking. Carlton Smith and PIMA have been critical in arranging this program and negotiating appropriate agreements among all parties. The logistical underpinnings are staggering. Carlton is right there, with his sleeves rolled up, determined to do whatever is necessary to bring this vital care to the people of Kiribati.

The patients I see on the island represent a broad range of clinical problems. Some of the problems have solutions, others do not. The hospital staff itself has critical needs for improved medical records, help with equipment maintenance, staff training and vital infrastructure improvement.

The needs are overwhelming, but a sense of hope and progress pervades the team.

I can’t say enough about the doctors and staff at the hospital and my respect for the skill they bring to their work. Nor can I ever adequately express my gratitude and admiration for what PIMA has done for the people of Kiribati through working with the government and medical personnel in this isolated region of the world.

I would love to discuss this in greater detail with anyone interested and can be reached on my email at larryfalk@pacific.net.