MAJURO (Marianas Variety) - The overwhelming demand for ear-nose-throat services saw Majuro Hospital's outpatient area jam-packed every day for the past two weeks while a group of visiting American doctors has been on island.
"We will probably see over 400 patients by the time we leave Friday," said Canvasback team leader Jacque Spence. Canvasback is a California-based Christian medical group that has provided volunteer medical services to the Marshall Islands since the 1980s.
Spence said ear problems are "rampant" in Majuro.
Dr Charles Stewart, III, who has an ENT practice at Loma Linda University in California, performed numerous surgeries, including at least one life-saving procedure.
From swimming, children get one infection after another that usually go untreated, causing serious problems to their ears and ability to hear over time, he said.
Some of the patients who have ear infections that do not go away even after using antibiotics usually indicates the infection has migrated into the bone, and surgery is required to fix it. "We will probably do about 15 surgeries, mostly on children," he said.
Stewart described the case of a woman who showed up at Majuro Hospital last Thursday with a large swelling on the side of her forehead. She said the swelling had been present for about one month.
He determined the swelling was a pus-filled abscess from an inner ear infection.
The ear infection had eroded the bone behind the ear close to the brain. "It is amazing that the infection had not drained into the brain," Stewart said. Because the pus could not drain out from the ear, it drained into her forehead, creating the large swelling. "I've seen a lot of abscesses but not one like this," he said.
Stewart performed surgery on her, fixing her ear. "She would have died without surgery," he said. In the understatement of the week, Stewart noted that the patient "felt a whole lot better the next day".