SUISUN CITY — A Suisun City father and son gave up their Thanksgiving to help out in the Philippines following Typhooon Haiyan.
Tom Kamin, and his son Gaelen Kamin, 18, went as part of a Remote Area Medical mission.
They spent almost two weeks on the islands. Tom Kamin served as a team leader and coordinated relief operations with the United Nations command center. Gaelen Kamin worked on the front lines, helping those seeking medical care.
The pair spent their first night sleeping in a hospital that was more than 100 years old. There were 12 people to a room and they slept on the floor.
“It was like Tetris,” said Gaelen Kamin in jest, referring to the tile-matching puzzle video game.
After connecting with Rotary clubs in the Philippines, they and the other team members ended up in a resort that had electricity on an intermittent basis.
They would depart about 8 a.m. each day to go into the neighboring villages. They were back by nightfall. Military escorts made the trip with them because of battling factions in some areas.
It wasn’t unusual to find long lines waiting for them. While some of the nurses and doctors thought they’d see “war wounds,” the most common health issues revolved around access to care being cut off.
At one location, they were visited by a young girl who had burns over half her body. Tom Kamin estimated she was 8 or 9.
All he could do was offer her comfort and tell her parents to take her their doctor.
“You feel so helpless,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do.”
He is hoping to connect her with services offered by Shriner’s Hospital.
The father and son saw some incredible destruction. What had been a forest had no standing trees. Only the metal frame of one building remained. What was a highway was merely a single lane for travel.
Then there was the matter of a being on a plane for 30 hours, 15 going and 15 coming. Temperatures in the mid-70s with lots of humidity didn’t make it the most comfortable place.
Gaelen Kamin took his Solano Community College schoolwork with him. It was his first time an overseas Remote Area Medical mission. He’s been on others in the area, including one where he met Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.
The Kamins paid their own way, with the support of friends and Tom Kamin’s co-workers.
Remote Area Medical was begun by Stan Brock, who was featured on “Wild Kingdom.”
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.