Sunday, September 21, 2014

Africa Mercy - Delay, Decisions Pending: One Nurse's Journey

Another August post from Marilyn. I'm glad the Africa Mercy is taking precautions regarding the Ebola crisis. I love that Marilyn's humor is fully intact despite delays. Would love a picture of that red hair! Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

August 14, 2014
"Delay, decisions pending"

Dear friends,

Well, we were supposed to sail for Benin tomorrow. Last Monday, they announced a two week delay, and a possible change of plans, due to the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. The management of Mercy Ships is watching the situation very carefully; they feel that it will become more clear within a couple of weeks, either for better or for worse. Meanwhile, they are looking into alternatives, whatever that means.

We are a mobile surgical unit, not a general hospital equipped to
handle infectious diseases. We cannot really help in the
management of this outbreak, but we sure could make it worse if we show up in the wrong place. Many Africans mistrust their own hospitals and medical system; our big white hospital ship would draw desperate people like a magnet, hoping against hope that we could help them, no matter how much publicity we put out to say otherwise. Lagos, the city in Nigeria where the Ebola outbreak is located, is only about 60 miles from Contonou, Benin, where we would be, and the border between the two countries is quite porous.

If we tried to screen for surgical candidates and a few Ebola
sufferers show up, mixing with the crowd, well,...not pretty.
Choosing an alternative destination is not so easy, either.
Normally, we have an advance team in country for a year prior to the ship's arrival. They work out the agreements with the
government and arrange for necessary goods and services. They do publicity to alert the population so that we have patients waiting for us. They find suitable facilities for the dental and eye
clinics, and for the Hope Center (our housing for post-op patients who need more rehabilitation) and get the buildings renovated, ready for use. They hire the day crew that we'll need and start their training. A lot happens behind the scenes before we ever arrive. This work has been done for Benin, but of course, not for "somewhere else."

As you can imagine, even a two week delay causes quite a lot of
disruption. Many volunteers planned to arrive in Benin shortly
after the ship arrived, in time to help with the big screening day.
Those plans no longer work, and those folks are left hanging, not
knowing where or when to come. Others planned to leave from Benin during our first two weeks, and obviously our ship will not have arrived in time for them to catch their flights. I can only
imagine the disruption to the advance team and to the day workers in Benin who are poised for our arrival.

For those of us already on the ship, this is a time of waiting for
the shoe to drop. There are tasks to be done, but we're eager to
be about the business we came for. The uncertainty about the
future isn't terrible, and we have great confidence in our
leadership as they face difficult decisions, but it is unsettling
to wonder what will become of us, what we will in fact be doing in the coming months.

To end on a funny note--my hair is turning orange. It seems that
they cleaned the water storage tanks this summer, and much rust is still coming through the pipes. Gee, I've never been a redhead
before...wish it were a bit more auburn, not so...rust-colored.

Marilyn Neville

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

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, red hair from rust..poor thing. My hubby and I watch "Mighty Ships" and one was on a medical ship that go to places like Marilyn does. It was quite eye-opening. Stay safe


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