Sunday, February 16, 2014

Africa Mercy - Natural/ Supernatural Events: One Nurse's Journey

More from Marilyn in the Congo! Life is never the same, one day to the next.

08 Feb 2014
Natural/Supernatural Events

Greetings, my friends

T'is a weekend, and I am thankful for it. We've finished another week of surgery--where did the time go? The days ranged from "normal" (whatever that is...), to very stressful, to frustratingly unproductive--in other words, a typical week. No two days are the same, and they are all unpredictable. I live in a place where rain causes the city to grind to a halt for hours at a time, and it is the rainy season.  I work in a culture that views time and appointments differently--if you tell patients to come at 0630 on Tuesday, some of them will be there, but some will straggle in by 10:00 or 11:00, and a few will come on Monday or Thursday instead.

 If you tell them to take their blood pressure medicine before leaving home on the day of surgery, maybe half of them will do it. I haven't figured out why that happens. Are we not saying it correctly? Can they not afford the medicine? Have their doctors convinced them that they are cured of blood pressure problems with two weeks of medication? Is the word out that Mercy Ships will give them medicine to lower their blood pressure enough to allow surgery, so save yourself a pill? (We do that, usually.)

 So, a day like Tuesday happens now and then. It rained all night, so streets were flooded. The surgeon was eager to get an early start...but by starting time, we had only two patients qualified
for surgery and two with sky-high blood pressures. The other twelve patients hadn't come yet. We made multiple trips to the dock in the rain to bring in drenched patients as they gradually arrived over the next several hours. At one point I had four with elevated blood pressures, three or four that the doctor hadn't seen yet due to late arrival, two pterygium surgery patients (always  scheduled to be the last surgeries of the day), one or two whose cataract surgery was expected to be difficult and so scheduled for later in the day...and no patients qualified to send for surgery.

 The doctor was having to make compromises on who he would do next...and I was jumping this way and that trying to predict which ones I should be preparing for surgery in what order. Some I dilated early in anticipation that he would take them next, only to have them set aside. Others I had to scramble to get ready, and even sent them for surgery not fully dilated. Two patients never did arrive, but we did eventually manage to get the surgeries done on the rest. All's well that ends well, but it was a stressful day.

 Meanwhile, glorious things were happening down the hall. We have a  dental program. They do fillings and cleanings, but they also do a lot of extractions for teeth that are too far gone to save. They did an extraction for one man who had quite an abscess under that tooth. The infection spread quickly and he became deathly ill.

 They admitted him to the hospital for treatment, but he quickly deteriorated to the point of needing intubation and life support. He had aspirated pus, and was in dreadful condition. They actually had to cancel a day of surgery so that the anesthesiologist could attend him 24/7, and even at that, he was not expected to live.

 The hospital administrator later told us that it was technically impossible for the man to recover. His death was so certain that the administrator had already begun the paperwork required for a death on the ship. But, a call for prayer went out, and many prayed, including the kids in the academy. I think the Lord listens to the prayers of children with special attention. At any rate, it seems that He did intervene, interrupting the normal course of this man's crisis. 

 Imagine the administrator's surprise to find that not only was the man not dead the next morning, he was off the ventilator, out of  bed, and sitting in a chair, dramatically recovered. It doesn't happen that way very often, but when it does...hallelujah. 

So there you have it, the lows and highs of the week.


[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy]


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