Datum: 26th February 2020
Geografische Position: 30° 04.0’ N ; 73° 04.0’ W
Position: On our way to Bermuda
Etmal: 143 nm
With our departure from Cuba last week, there were some changes in the permanent crew again. One was that wonderful Donatella joined us. She will be our doctor on board for the second Atlantic crossing and stay with us until Vigo. For today’s daily report I asked her some questions so that we all can get to know her a bit better.
Elena: Hello Donatella, thank you for taking some time and answering some questions. Maybe you could firstly introduce yourself.
Donatella: My name is Donatella Barbera. I’m Italian, I’ve been living in Britain for 23 years now. I’m still Italian on the passport, but everybody in Italy thinks I’m a foreigner (laughs). I’ve been a doctor for over 25 years now and became a specialist in colorectal surgery, which is surgery dealing with cancer of bowel. Apart from that I’m a keen climber and I got an interest in high-altitude medicine.
Elena: How did you hear about Ocean College and how did you get the job on the Pelican of London?
Donatella: By luck! (laughs) I’ve got a group of people, some of them I know, some of them I’ve never met, I call them”The Lazy Doctor – Group”. They are actually doctors, which – like myself – have got some interest outside the normal practice of medicine. Most of us have done a diploma on mountain medicine and that’s how we got to know each other. Within this group we have got a mail newsletter, where many different things get advertised or people get medical advise. In this group the doctor from last year Ocean College sent a mail, whether there is anyone who would like to do this job. I replied and got in touch with Kelly from the Office of Adventure Under Sail; there were four other ones, so we had a proper interview and in the end I got the job.
Elena: Have you worked on a ship before or have you ever sailed before?
Donatella: No, I haven’t worked on a ship before and I haven’t done much sailing at all. I just have been taken out by some friends who got a boat and we went around the Mediterranean Sea, but that’s a very different sea than this here and it was only for a few days, a few times.
Elena: But you have already been part of some other projects, right?
Donatella: Yes, medicalwise I have done a lot of charity work outside Europe. I have been working in Bolivia for 10 years, not continuously but I’ve been helping a mission there for 10 years now. Their main vocation is actually on teaching, not on health, but a friend of mine who is a nurse, another doctor from Italy and me got involved, and are trying to help the Bolivian people and look after them healthwise. I do a lot of fundraising for that, for example did I get money from Italy to build two operating theaters in a hospital in La Paz that belongs to the church and I have been teaching the local doctors how to do a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. That is a keyhole technique, which has been used in Europe for over 20 years now, but is still new there.
Elena: What motivates you to be a doctor outside the “normal circumstances”?
Donatella: Well, part of it is being selfish and part of it is helping others. The selfish part is that I sometimes get bored with my job. There is a lot of paperwork involved in being a doctor, which you firstly might not think of. In Europe it has all become very organized, maybe too organized sometimes. You spend half of your time writing down what you have done and half of your time actually doing things. The other part of me always wanted to be a missionary doctor, I have been trying to go to Africa since I was a child.
I am actually getting there now, I’m going to Madagascar this May to an orphanage and a hospital which is attached to it. So a part of me wants to help the others, I feel very privileged that I was born in Italy and not in Madagascar, because otherwise I would probably not be a doctor now. I feel like giving something back from all that good luck I had in life. I was born in the right place, at the right time and had the opportunity to become a doctor.
Elena: Thank you very much!
Donatella: You’re welcome.