Sunday, September 21, 2014

Africa Mercy - Now What? One Nurse's Journey

August was a a month of unknowns for the Africa Mercy, when and where it would go. Read more about the ongoing Ebola crisis. 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).

25 August 2014
"Now what?"

In the normal course of things, we spend a couple of months in Gran Canaria for shipyard maintenance, and then we sail to Tenerife (another Canary island about six hours away) to restock supplies before sailing to our next field service.  This summer, the ship did in fact get its scheduled maintenance and then sailed to Tenerife.  (That's where I rejoined the ship.).  Plans changed when Ebola hit Nigeria; we delayed our scheduled departure for Benin for a couple of weeks to watch the developments.

Meanwhile, on the sail between islands, we discovered a problem with one of our propellers.  As a result, the ship had trouble going forward and trouble stopping--probably something that should be attended to, right?

It turned out to be quite a puzzle.  For two weeks, the engineers hunted for the problem. Finally, digging deep into the guts of the thing, they discovered that a couple of O rings were defective.  Replacing O rings sounds easy--but we're talking about massive equipment buried in the bowels of a ship.  To repair it, we had to sail back to the shipyard, and they say it will take two weeks of work to dismantle and repair the propeller.  And so, now it will be at least another week of delay. Tentatively, they hope to sail to Africa around September 5th, if all goes well.

If you've been following the Ebola crisis, you know that the problem has been escalating dramatically.  Previous outbreaks have been located in small rural villages, where they were quarantined, stayed local, and petered out. This outbreak is in major cities, in populations that are mobile, and it just keeps growing.  Guinea seems to be leveling off, finally, but Liberia's problem has gone exponential  I can scarcely imagine the horrors going on there. It reminds me of the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages.  (Well, it's certainly not THAT bad yet...)

Lagos just reported two more cases, and they are second tier, one step removed from Patrick Sawyer's caregivers.  I was very much hoping that Nigeria had reacted quickly enough to contain the outbreak to include only those who were initially exposed to Patrick.  Now that it's gone to another level, will they be able to contain it at this point?  It seems very touch and go to me.

Both Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo have now reported cases of Ebola, but apparently they are independent outbreaks of different strains, not a spread of the West African strain.  Possibly it is "business as usual" for these countries, where outbreaks occur most years in rural areas and are contained with quarantine.  Perhaps it is only our awareness of the problem that is different.

So, when and where are we going?  How will we conduct business once we are "there"?  Will we do mass screenings, or find patients some other way?  Etc., etc.  So many questions...and no answers yet.  And so, we wait and pray.

Marilyn Neville

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

1 comment:

  1. Oh my...Ebola Virus scares me and any plane activity unless it is medical should not go. It sounds harsh but this is no laughing matter and Marilyn is in the tick of it. When watching "Mighty Ships" I know what she means about the mechanics...huge machines


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