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Army June 21, 2012
Maj Cameron Jamieson
ARMY nurse Capt Kerry
McKinnell uncovered a life-threat-
ening illness in an Indonesian
woman who put her son's health
ahead of her own when seek-
ing medical treatment on the US
Hospital Ship USNS Mercy.
The ship is in Indonesian waters
off North Sulawesi for Pacific
Partnership 2012, conducting
humanitarian tasks and providing
surgical support to locals who might
otherwise have their medical condi-
tions go untreated.
"The lady had a swollen belly,
and everyone assumed that she was
pregnant," Capt McKinnell said.
"So I asked her when she was
due. She told me she wasn't preg-
nant, so I asked more questions and
she revealed to me that she has had
the condition for three years."
The woman, Treis Kowaas, from
the city of Manado, was escorting
her 12-year-old stepson for cleft pal-
"I asked her if she had been seen
by our doctors at the surgery screen-
ing clinics, and she told me she had
got half-way through the screening
process but as the adult and pediat-
rics screenings were being conducted
in two different areas she decided
to put the needs of her son, Morgan,
Ms Kowaas wanted Morgan to
continue his schooling.
"Morgan said that if he didn't get
surgery now he wouldn't go back to
school," Ms Kowaas said.
"He doesn't want any more bully-
ing. But now because of this surgery
he can enter middle-high school.
"I give thanks to almighty God
that Morgan has been operated on by
Capt McKinnell said Ms Kowaas
was unable to have children and was
also aware of the basics of her condi-
"She had seen a doctor in the past
who had ordered scans and told her
she had ovarian myeloma, but the
surgery cost more than US$1000 and
they didn't have the money," Capt
"Since coming on board Mercy
she hadn't talked about herself; her
only concern was for Morgan."
Ms Kowaas' condition was
brought to the attention of doctors on
board and a flurry of blood tests and
a CT scan followed the next morn-
ing.With the laboratory results
and CT scans in, obstetrician and
gynecological specialist, US Navy
surgeon Leut-Cmdr Kaivon Arfaa,
conferred with his peers to see what
could be done for her.
The test results are concerning,
but Leut-Cmdr Arfaa thinks Ms
Kowaas can be successfully treated.
"The scans suggest she has a
large borderline tumor. It may or
may not be cancerous," Leut-Cmdr
"But it is operable. We have an
Indonesian cancer specialist surgeon
coming in a few days for the next
leg of our trip and we anticipate that
he will be able to operate on her and
achieve a good outcome."
Without treatment Ms Kowaas
could only expect to live for three
With the help of an interpreter,
Leut-Cmdr Arfaa explained the
results and the new diagnosis while
taking care to emphasise that it was
unlikely she had cancer.
Ms Kowaas took the news calmly
and when Leut-Cmdr Arfaa finished
she thanked the medical personnel
for their help.
"I cannot repay you, but I will
pray for all the doctors here."
Maj Cameron Jamieson
AUSSIE medics are rubbing shoulders
with leading regional physicians to
change lives in South East Asia.
A nursing officer, anaesthetist and
environmental health officer have joined
the ADF's 41-strong Pacific Partnership
team to bring life-changing medical
services to people in Indonesia, the
Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Pacific Partnership has started opera-
tions in the Indonesian province of North
Sulawesi, with patients ranging from
infants to octogenarians receiving treat-
ment both on board the US Navy Hospital
Ship USNS Mercy and on land.
Typical of the work being done
on Pacific Partnership is a cleft palate
operation performed on four-month-old
Indonesian girl Shiva Alkatiri.
Untreated, the condition would leave
Shiva with problems eating and breath-
ing, at risk of lung infection and suffering
the social stigma attached to growing up
with a facial deformation.
Under normal circumstances her
family would not be in a position to
afford surgery to repair the defect, but
with the cooperation of the Indonesian
Government and the Pacific Partnership
medical team, Shiva has already had the
first surgery she will need to lead a nor-
mal life as she grows toward adulthood.
Capt Kerry McKinnell, of 3HSB,
is one of the nurses caring for Shiva in
USNS Mercy's paediatric ward.
"The surgery was very successful,"
Capt McKinnell said.
"We had Shiva off oxygen in two
hours and feeding within three hours.
"She is expected to thrive after the
surgery. She should develop at an appro-
priate rate for her age.
"Aesthetically and culturally, the sur-
gery will change her life significantly.
"In 20 years she will be able to marry
and have children without the issues
that she would be confronted with if she
didn't have surgery."
Also aboard the USNS Mercy to care
for Shiva is her mother, Nur Ain, who
could not be happier with the outcome of
"Shiva will be like the other babies
now," Ms Ain said.
"This will help her eat better and look
better for the rest of her life."
make a difference
Brave mum let condition go unchecked for her son's sake
Check up: Capt Kerry McKinnell, of 3HSB, checks in on four-month-old Shiva
Alkatiri after cleft palate surgery.
Photo by Maj Cameron Jamieson
Brave mother: Treis Kowaas hugs her stepson, Morgan Pulong, after his cleft palate surgery aboard USNS
Mercy. Inset, A US Navy medical team prepares Ms Kowaas for a CT scan.
Photos by Maj Cameron Jamieson
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