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Woodbury doctor fulfills ‘sense of responsibility’

Woodwinds ER doctor Maryam Shapland packs up her supplies before traveling to the Philippines for a medical mission trip. (Staff photo by Riham Feshir)

Dr. Maryam Shapland is no stranger to the Philippines: the weak infrastructure, high poverty rate and long-term diseases.

Growing up in the capital city of Manila as a child of two physicians, Shapland remembers neighbors knocking on their door asking for medical help. The next day she’d get a carton of eggs or a plate of chicken as a thank you gift in return.

So when Typhoon Haiyan hit the country in early November, she felt she had an obligation to go help with relief efforts.

The Woodwinds Health Campus emergency room doctor left for a medical mission trip Dec. 8 where she’ll stay at makeshift hospitals in the Philippines helping people recover from the devastation.

Ready to leave with three suitcases filled with medical supplies, Shapland gathered up everything from antibiotics, surgical sutures and malaria medicine to birthing kits, syringes and IVs.

When she first heard about the tragedy that displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused more than 5,000 deaths, her first reaction was dread.

“I knew the response would not be as swift as it would be here,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep that night because I knew there would be so much devastation.”

Shapland and her family had already planned a trip to Manila this month, but when her cousin put out a call for help on Facebook, she couldn’t ignore it.

“I think she’s talking to me,” she said was her thought. “There is still a huge need right now.”

Shapland will be part of a team of four physicians and a few nurses as part of the nonprofit organization Operation Blessing International.

Getting ready for the trip wasn’t very difficult since she was able to get her shifts at work covered and gather excess medical supplies from Global Health Ministries and HealthEast Care System.

“Next thing I know I have three bags full of medical supplies,” she said.

The only thing that might cause some issues is having to explain all the sharp objects in those suitcases.

“We’re just going to have to check them all in and hope we don’t get questioned about the surgical instruments,” Shapland said earlier this month.

Being an ER doctor, Shapland is trained to take care of anybody, anywhere, so she’s not worried about the medical aspect of the trip. Rather, she’s concerned about the logistics, like not having clean water or bathroom facilities.

Shapland will be staying at a church converted into a clinic to see as many patients as possible affected in the hardest-hit areas of Tacloban, Ormoc and the Leyte.

“As far as I know we’ll be sleeping on the church pews,” Shapland said. “I’m not sure if there is running water but we’ll make do.”

Most of the major traumas have already been transferred out of the area so Shapland will most likely focus on minor injuries, infections and childhood illnesses.

But there is still a lot of work to be done. Many dead bodies still lay on the streets and hundreds of people are displaced after homes were flattened by the major cyclone.

Shapland is looking forward to working with an organization that sustains relief efforts and is consistently sending out teams of doctors to respond to the devastation.

“This will be years and decades long of rebuilding effort,” she said, adding, “As a physician, you have a sense of responsibility, but also as a citizen you have a sense of responsibility to help those that are less fortunate.”

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.