Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Africa Mercy - Goodbye to Africa and Home Again: One Nurse's Story

Hi. Going backwards on three emails from my nurse friend Marilyn (scroll down) on her final days in Africa on the Africa Mercy. 

I know that some of you follow her story and she is now back in Africa for more service! (More on that later). Such an amazing woman. I hope you are enjoying her story.

2018 April 18: "Update at last"

It's been a while since I've written.  The cataract surgeries finished March 28, so of course, the scheduling finished a bit before that.  It's always a bit chaotic at the end, trying to find the most needy patients, being sure to leave room in the schedule for those who were sent away to fix their blood pressure problems, and yet wasting as few surgical slots as possible.  But, somehow, it all seemed to come together.  We were able to offer surgery to every patient who came to us and qualified; no one was turned away just because the schedule was full.  It doesn't always happen that way.

I spent most of March doing administrative tasks because our team leader had to go home early; her mother got quite ill.  I was glad to have those tasks to do because the scheduling portion of my job had diminished to minimal levels by then.  But, there's nothing too interesting to report about entering data into the database and collecting statistics, so we'll skip over that.

I flew home on April 2.  Even though my job was done, they let me stay through Easter, and I even got to stay on the ship for the last four days.  Easter, as always, is really special on the ship, and living on the ship meant that I could participate in all the activities without worrying about transportation to and from the team house.  It was definitely a high point for me.

I've been busy since getting back home to Syracuse.  After two days at home, I flew off to San Jose for my nephew's wedding, and then to LA to visit my son.  I got home again, and two days later I left to visit my other son in Wisconsin, which is where I am now.  Poor body doesn't have any idea what time zone it is in.  It decided that 4:30 AM must be time to get up today...

The rest of my summer looks equally busy--there's a trip to Boise in May, a nephew's graduation in Chicago in June, a house-sitting arrangement in Philadelphia later in June, and then sorting, packing, selling the Syracuse house, and moving to Philadelphia, hopefully in July and August.

Although it is not definite yet, I am hoping to return to the ship about mid-August for another field service, serving once again as the scheduling nurse for cataract surgery.  If that comes to pass, I'll resume my periodic updates to you folks.  Until then, y'all have a good summer. (I tend to think of it as "summer" already, but it's supposed to snow a couple of inches tonight, so maybe I should be looking forward to spring, not expecting it to be summer...)



03 Mar18 "One young woman"

     On Wednesday, a young man brought his 26 year-old sister from his village in the southwest region of the country to be screened for cataracts.  She did have bilateral dense white cataracts, probably suitable for surgery.  So, on Thursday, they came to secondary screening for further examination.  Indeed, she was an excellent candidate for surgery.  We squeezed her into that same day’s surgery schedule and found them a place to stay overnight so that they didn’t have to make another long trip to and from their home.  On Friday, the day after surgery, she could see 6/18—better than I can see!  They were so happy.  I can’t even imagine what a profound difference it has made in her life and in the lives of her family.  Perhaps now she can get married…perhaps now some child can return to school instead of caring for her at home…perhaps…oh, the whole world has changed for them.  Isn’t it beautiful?

 2018-02-22 "A few cameo shots of patients"

     Two patients caught my attention at the YAG celebration this morning.  One was an old man, bent back, shuffling gait, white cane used for walking.  He had cataract surgery six weeks ago, and now he can see.  We generally start the celebration with dancing and singing.  This old fellow was out there with the rest of them, shuffling his feet energetically and pounding the floor with his cane as he sang.  It was his new use of his cane that caught my attention.

     The second man I noticed was young, very tall, very thin, very long fingers.  I think he has Marfan’s Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes premature cataracts among other things.  He is the only son of an ailing mother.  He was a student until he was too blind to read and had to drop out.  His mother has had to care for him in recent years; the future looked bleak for the pair of them.  His mother heard of Mercy Ships on the radio and brought him to a screening.  His surgery went well; he plans to resume his education, and he can now care for himself and for his mother.

     Then there was the lady who had been told by the local specialists that she couldn’t have cataract surgery because the eye was too damaged inside.  So instead, she brought her father for screening for his cataracts.  His surgery was so successful that she decided she’d get screened herself.  Her surgery was six weeks ago.  Even though she does have some loss of vision due to a damaged retina, she has better vision now than she had before surgery, and she is quite pleased.


     Sometimes I measure success in less dramatic ways.  Last September, we had a pterygium patient who had a complication.  His blood pressure was very high, and he developed a peri-orbital bleed when they tried to do the local block anesthesia.  He was sent away to let the blood re-absorb and to get his blood pressure under control.  He came again for surgery in January, but again his blood pressure was too high.  He came again today to be re-checked, still hoping for surgery.  His blood pressure was under much better control—still high by western standards, but pretty acceptable here.  But, since he’d had the bleed before, Dr. Glenn felt it was too risky to do surgery with an even slightly elevated blood pressure.  The man was so gracious about being told no after all these months of hoping.  But, looking on the bright side, his blood pressure used to be dangerously high and now it is not.  Perhaps we’ve done him a good turn if we’ve convinced him to continue with his BP medication—maybe he won’t have a stroke.  We had opportunity to teach him how to minimize the pterygium growth, and we gave him some sunglasses that fit over his eyeglasses, so maybe we helped with the original problem, even though we couldn’t do the surgery.

     We have a three day weekend this week, and most of the people at the team house are leaving town to sightsee somewhere.  I would have been pretty much stranded at the house, but they arranged for me to have a berth on the ship for the weekend.  It’s in a ten-berth cabin filled with young women—should be interesting!  I’m looking forward to it.  I would imagine it’s an upper bunk…



Monday, August 20, 2018

The Classics - CLOSING LINES: The Study of Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyles

As narrated by Dr. Watson:

"Didn't I tell you so when we started?" cried Sherlock Holmes with a laugh. "That's the result of all our Study in Scarlet: to get them a testimonial!"

"Never mind," I answered, "I have all the facts in my journal, and the public shall know them. In the meantime you must make yourself contented by the consciousness of success, like the Roman miser—

"'Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplor in arca.'"

(Published 1887) (This short novel introduced Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to the public)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Stuck...It's not such a bad thing

Shipwreck freeimages.com/Roger Buser
Shipwreck freeimages.com/Roger Buser

Shipwrecked, stranded, and especially the word STUCK comes to mind with this image. Ever feel that way when everything you are trying to do in your writing feels frozen? 

IF you're like me you have to set everything aside and focus on something new to get moving again. I've been cleaning house, tossing out old papers in my office, cleaning elsewhere in the home, thinking about painting, and window coverings....baking sourdough breads (my go-to source of comfort lately), but mostly throwing stuff away. 

One example, and boy did it ever feel good, was to throw out a file drawer full of research on a nonfiction book I almost did for an educational publisher years back. I kept thinking this would be great for historical fiction. Most came from hours of copying at a university library.....Why? Because the network was still questionable back then when it came to research. Yet all that work, I kept reasoning.....surely it could be used elsewhere. So I had a serious talk with myself. IF I were to seriously do historical fiction, wouldn't I use online resources after all? Wouldn't I? So into the garbage it all went....volumes worth. And how did I feel afterwards? A sense of freedom.

Now that I'm clearing the plate so to speak, I am beginning to see my office and goals more clearly. This is not to say I'm now unstuck, however. As I'm kneading the dough for sourdough pitas, and letting another batch of dough rise for sourdough crackers, I'm toughening up to start writing again. It's time for the explorer in me to investigate this hunk of junk before me.  

To be honest, that's how my current manuscript feels at the moment. My Na-No experiment awhile back left me with a story that began twisting and turning in strange ways. Was it the creative juices taking over or do I really need to start again? I'm hoping there are treasures to find nonetheless as I investigate. Time to explore! If I come up short, I'll bake more sourdough. 

"Sourdough Pita Bread"

2 cups flour (my favorite combo: 1c whole wheat and 1c spelt)
1 T. sugar
1/2 Tsp. salt
1/2 cup sourdough starter (freshly fed)
1 T. olive oil
3/4 -1 cup water (room temperature)

Mix flour, sugar and salt together. Make well in center and add oil and starter. As you mix, add water 2-3 T. water at a time as needed to make a workable dough. Knead until soft and elastic. Place in greased bowl and cover. Let rise to about double. Punch down. Shape into 8 lemon-size balls (thickness of two tortillas). Cover with damp cloth and let rest for 5 min. Meanwhile, heat up a griddle or skillet to medium heat. Roll dough balls into 6 inch circles and fry in light oil. When the dough puffs up you can flip over for a few seconds to lightly brown. Enjoy!


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Evernight Teen: DEBUT NEW RELEASE: BREED by Niki Cluff

A comet is set to destroy Earth, but Kyle Singer is determined to survive. Tired of being treated like a second-class citizen thanks to her perfect brother, Kyle doesn’t think twice when offered the opportunity to attend an academy formed to stop the comet. It’s not like there’s going to be much left after the comet hits, anyway.

She's drugged, shipped off to the school, and thrown into a relationship with Ichiro Seung-hun, an exchange student from South Korea. The school isn’t just about stopping the comet. It’s a breeding program for after the comet hits and wipes out the human race. Terrified of becoming a baby-making factory, Kyle and Ichiro will do whatever it takes to escape. Evernight Teen: DEBUT NEW RELEASE: BREED by Niki Cluff: NOW AVAILABLE! 


Hi everyone. It's been awhile.... This is one scary plot. One of the characters is from the Asia Pacific, a part of the world wracked with uncertainty and havoc today. I am surprised that more authors haven't introduced characters from this region.

Internationally, those in the U.S. are easily a flight away from South Korea, where most speak some English at least. The culture and people of that region are no doubt beautiful, but as with any race, there is always a dark side. Not sure if the bad guys are from the Asia Pacific, from here, or both (read and find out), but it sure strikes my imagination. I wish Niki the best of success! May sales reach the moon and over.

I believe we read these stories, among other reasons, to explore the dark side of human nature and to find some commonality with a people unlike ourselves. When I researched Malaysia and Thailand (including Hawaii) I discovered a seedy world of drug trade, human trafficking, and smuggling, with sadly, ties to the mainland U.S., but I also discovered in the mix, the goodness of people, as this author has with Kyle and Ichiro.

I invite you to explore Niki's debut novel and also my own Evernight Teen novel: The Shells of Mersing, which is set in Hawaii, Malaysia and Thailand.

Happy reading!!