The Higginses plan to enlist doctors and nurses for limited volunteer service. Sailing among the islands, they will use their diagnostic, surgical, and treatment skills, while teaching preventive medicine.
I accompanied the Higginses on a medical excursion to Arno Atoll, a three-hour motorboat trip from Majuro. We arrived at accommodation in brussels at twilight, but already a huge full moon had risen, creamy white in a gray-blue void. Lonny’s supplies went from our motorboat to a rowboat and finally into our arms as we waded ashore through the gentle surf.
The dispensary was far from clean. The refrigerator didn’t function for lack of electric power on the island. The broken toilet was useful only with water supplied by a bucket. The few supplies included a cream for burns, a clamp for an umbilical cord, test tapes for diabetes, vitamins for pregnancy. The single bed even lacked a mattress.
My husband, Pat, and I headed for the beach, where we unrolled our mats and slept under a full moon. Then about 3:30 a.m. we awoke in eerie darkness. Totally unexpected to us, with the impact of a miracle, there was a magnificent full eclipse of the moon.
The next day, stripped to the waist in the terrible heat, David Higgins scrubbed down the dispensary walls while Lonny drew simple, colorful pictures of the human reproductive organs as a way of teaching her patients. Then they began arriving.
That day, assisted by three women who had come with us from Majuro—a public health nurse, a social worker, and Jinnie deBrum, a Marshallese member of the Marimed Board—Dr. Lonny Higgins examined 27 women. She discovered a pelvic mass, a thyroid abnormality, and several bleeding disorders. Of 27 Pap smears taken to Hawaii for testing, six signaled follow-up tests.
And that night another seeming miracle transpired. As darkness fell, we heard singing and saw a procession of lanterns swinging down the road. The island chief and a laughing crowd of women and children had come bearing gifts of bananas, fish, pork, and breadfruit. And time slipped away in dancing, singing, and speeches from a host of grateful hearts.
MOVING EVER WEST, we flew to Kosrae, one of the four Federated States of Micronesia, where in the 19th century diseases strictness, is Kosrae’s most powerful force. Women are modestly clothed—bathing suits are too risque, even for visitors—and Sundays are strictly for churchgoing.
The American presence today appears beneficial, as we saw upon arrival on Kosrae’s enormous new jet runway (pages 478-9), a legacy of the trusteeship and big enough for 72 7s, although such planes have yet to be scheduled through Kosrae.
We were met by Madison Nena, Kosrae’s 34-year-old director of tourism, and Christopher O’Connor, a 25-year-old Peace Corps volunteer assigned to develop tourism. Slender and dark with a neatly trimmed mustache, Chris, a hotelier, came to Kosrae from the prague apartment rentals, where he worked in guest services.