From China with love and care

Updated: 2013-06-19 15:03

By Peng Yining (China Daily)

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 From China with love and care

Doctors from the Peace Ark perform surgery on local residents at a temporary clinic in Mombasa during the hospital ship's first mission in 2010. Photos by Ju Zhenhua / for China Daily

Responsibility and capability

"As the world's second-largest economy, China has the responsibility and the capability to provide humanitarian services to people across the world," said Guo Fenghai, professor of Marxism studies at the PLA National Defense University. "In the era of globalization, international cooperation has played an important role in China's development, and, in return, the world should also benefit from China's growth."

During her first two missions, in 2010 and 2011, the Peace Ark visited nine countries in Southern Asia, Africa and South America, providing medical services to more than 23,000 people, 215 operations have been performed.

Liu said he conducted 81 operations on those two missions. At the peak, more than 50 patients consulted him every day.

The surgery isn't cheap. Liu said a regular cataract operation costs at least 6,000 yuan ($980) in China, although the cost varies from country to country. On previous voyages, many patients consulted him aboard the Peace Ark, either because they couldn't afford the treatment or would have to wait as long as a year to undergo surgery at a local hospital because medical resources were so scarce.

"But more importantly, they trusted the Chinese doctors," Liu said. "The world has witnessed China's development, and people understand that Chinese medical technology has developed as well."

During the 2010 mission, the ship's medical staff helped to deliver a baby girl to a woman with acute heart disease.

Lu Jianguo, a naval officer, said: "That was a close call. Both mother and baby were at their last gasp when they came to our hospital ship. The baby's father burst into tears when he held his child."

Lu said he now fully understands how that man felt, because his son was born just one month before the ship sailed from Zhoushan.

"He was so small and vulnerable when I held him in my arms for the first time. Suddenly he kicked a little. I will never forget that moment. It was the first time I felt that I was really a father."

However, he has now bid his family farewell and joined the four-month voyage. "It wasn't an easy decision. I feel sorry for my wife and my son," said Lu. "But if my mission makes people overseas feel as healthy and happy as I do with my family, then it will be worth being apart for four months."

With fair breezes and smooth seas into the tropics, the Peace Ark sailed south. As the voyage progressed, the soft, sweet tropical air mingled with the fresh smell of the sea and gave the crew of more than 400 soldiers, sailors, officers and medical staff a delightful experience of ocean travel.

On Saturday, the ship arrived at its first port of call in Brunei, where the crew participated in a joint humanitarian drill held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus. It was the first time the ship had participated in a large-scale joint drill with ASEAN.

Before each mission, the Peace Ark asks the local authorities for permission to treat residents and pledges to respect the local culture and religion, according to Wang Zhihui, director of the mission's medical crew. Every medical procedure is carried out with the patient's consent.

Wang said China has sent medical experts to all the countries the Peace Ark will visit to conduct research into local health care needs. He used cataracts as an example, saying the condition is a common problem in the tropics because of the prevalence of strong ultraviolet rays.

The Peace Ark's ophthalmology team is one of the best in its field and its equipment is state of the art.

"You have to know what people need in order to help them," he said. "We were warmly welcomed on the first two missions. The lines of people stretched longer than a kilometer and some even waited the entire night to see our doctor."

As the hospital ship only anchors at each stop for several days, the medical team targets common diseases and operations that can be completed quickly.

The services, including surgery and medication, are free of charge and in line with international standards, said Wang. "We have the most experienced doctors and the best medicines," he said.

Zhang Lanmei, a 50-year-old gynecologist, said this is her first Peace Ark mission.

"I have been working for more than 30 years and I am happy that my experience will help people overseas," she said.

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