Countries in crisis lure Jordan Wiley
He's 40 now, a father-to-be and somebody who can definitely say "been there, done that."
Jordan Wiley doesn't know whether he'll venture out for his 18th mission with Doctors Without Borders in January 2020, likely back in Uganda. Maybe, maybe not, it just depends on what he and his wife decide to do.
And, yes, 17 is a lot of missions, even for a nonmedical administrator such as Wiley.
"I've been really happy and really lucky, too," said Wiley, a 1997 Benson High graduate who also attended Mt. Hood Community College and Portland State. "Every year gets a little bit better. I've been lucky to have this sort of adventure and have it go relatively OK. I've been really lucky with sickness — no serious sickness — and a number of tricky situations."
Indeed, Wiley has worked in many countries, including Haiti, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, Chad, Uganda, Bangladesh and Philippines.
"It's 17 missions (in 11 years), although I'm not really counting," he added. "Other people have done it long-term like me, but fewer as time goes on. People want to do other things, work in a more stable context. ... I'm feeling that right now. My wife and I came back (to Portland) to have her baby, and we're questioning it now. Are we over it now?"
Wiley has worked in logistics, basically, lately with the title of country director, which means he serves as liaison between projects and strategy in the field and the headquarters in Paris. Recently it's been in Uganda.
"It's been a really wild ride, an amazing ride," he said, of his missions. "There have definitely been situations where you go, 'Hmm, what are we doing?'"
In Syria, he and another man — both with blue eyes — were accused of being spies. People went to the hospital and asked to talk with the guys with blue eyes. Wiley says the men were armed jihadi militants, presumably ISIS (before people called it ISIS).
"They wanted to take us and came with guns and masks," he said. But, community members came to their rescue, assuring the militants that the blue-eyed men worked for Doctors Without Borders, and "after intense negotiations, they left us alone."
In Haiti during the 2010 earthquake, the hospital in which he worked collapsed with doctors and patients inside — but not him. "All the (medical) buildings were destroyed or partially falling over," he said. "That's when we started moving to highly mobile surgical suites, and we went to work as fast as possible to save as many people as possible."
In Uganda, he and his wife and new baby, should they return, would have to worry about viruses — Zika, Ebola, Marberg — and Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo hemorraghic fever and a regular cholera outbreak. They would work with refugees and people living with HIV.
His first assignment was at a trauma hospital in Nigeria, where he "fell in love with (the work."
It's the kind of work for adventurous souls, and in his capacity Wiley started as a volunteer and then only received a small paycheck to go with in-country accommodations. Now, he makes a decent salary.
It is rewarding work for Wiley, who formerly worked in search and rescue in Multnomah County and then with Legacy Hospital in security and safety.
"I'm definitely open to positions back in Oregon," he said.
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