Continuing Promise also exposes the Navy teams to
maladies and conditions they never see in their clinics
“We see stuff that never made it into my textbooks,” Lennon said.
His doctors and nurses are treating cases of leishmaniasis — the parasitic malady that hit service
members who deployed to Southwest Asia hard.
Patients have shown up with mosquito-borne illnesses
such as dengue fever and the Zika virus, too, he said.
“One of our pediatricians has never seen chicken
pox, except in himself as a kid. To be able to see these
things is remarkable,” Lennon said.
The medical team planned to have two indigenous
tribes bused to their primary-care site in Colombia.
Even though these tribes have been where they are
for 2,000 years, there is no record of their medical
history or traditions, Lennon said. He hopes to gather
information, categorize it and send samples of their
findings to the Uniformed Services University of the
Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.
Lennon is particularly interested in the types of herbal
and natural treatments these people use to treat illnesses.
“It’s called medical ethno-biology, and it’s chal-
lenging,” Lennon said. “It’s not the focus of what
we’re doing, but while we’re here, we’re going to try
to do as much of that as we can.”
The interest in natural remedies has a tradition in
Western medicine, Lennon pointed out. People have
been using extract of willow bark as an analgesic for
years, under its common name — aspirin.
Lennon also made it clear that his team learned as
much from their local counterparts as they imparted
“There’s a perception that their doctors can’t do
what we do. In reality, they’re all trained in Western
tradition. They know what to do, but don’t have the
equipment,” he said.
To that end, the Navy teams are able to tell patients
from the local populace that their doctor down the street
has made a spot-on diagnosis, thus fostering confidence
in their own health-care systems, Lennon said.
For the Sailors working under Lennon, Continuing
Promise is an opportunity to grow.
“As Doc Lennon says, this is the kind of medicine
we don’t get to practice. It’s different from anything
I’ve ever been involved with,” Woodall said.
“I’m seeing a lot of patients’ conditions I never
really see at the clinic,” said Hospitalman (E- 3)
Kraylor Kirk-Johnson, who has been in the Navy
less than one year and is stationed at Naval Hospital
Kirk-Johnson recalled a patient who showed up
with a 3-inch-long skin abscess, which he had for
more than a decade.
“He’d always wear long-sleeve shirts, so no one
would see it,” Kirk-Johnson said. “We took care of it
for him, and saw how happy he was after we did. He
walked out in a short-sleeve shirt, with a Band-Aid
where he used to have the growth.”
Kirk-Johnson also talked about the grandmother
who had sole responsibility for her two grandchildren.
She came in, kids in tow, complaining of blurry vision
“We gave her prescription glasses. It was the first
time she was ever able to see her grandchildren. It was
awesome,” Kirk-Johnson said.
And there was the young man, probably around
Kirk-Johnson’s age, who had been told that he would
never play soccer again because of injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident.
“We evaluated him, gave him some medications and
physical-therapy exercises. Coached him how to do it,
and told him, ‘You’ll start feeling better, and be able to
play sports.’ Someone my age was going to be able to
do something they love again,” Kirk-Johnson said.
“The emphasis is on training in austere environments. You can’t buy that training in the Western
world. And as military docs, that’s what we desperately
need,” Lennon said. “When it hits the fan, we can go
in with nothing and we’re still functional. Whatever
this mission’s cost is, it’s cheap at twice the price for
this level of training,” he said. n
Hospitalman Kraylor Kirk-Johnson, assigned to Naval Branch Health
Clinic Jacksonville, Fla., performs an optometry screening on a host
nation patient at the Continuing Promise 2017 (CP- 17) medical site
Feb. 22 in support of CP- 17’s visit to Trujillo, Honduras.