Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Africa Mercy - Limping Along: One Nurse's Journey

This is one of Marilyn's parting emails before heading home possibly the end of March. Madagascar was healthier than expected, so it's likely her services will no longer be needed. She reflects on the last two years, and as typical, shares a patient's story. 

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

13 February

We have now done three weeks of cataract surgery since Christmas, and we have enough patients lined up for about three more weeks.We have screened for patients in six cities, but we have not found very many patients overall. That's good news for the Malagasy people...cataracts seem not to be the overwhelming problem here in Madagascar that it is in West Africa.

From a personal viewpoint, however, it has been a disappointing field service. We've worked so very hard to find patients, but we have done relatively few surgeries. Our last screening in Fenereve Est this week was expected to yield about 50 patients--we found 4.

And so, we will most probably be done with surgeries by early to middle March, long before the ship leaves Madagascar in June.  I will probably go home at the end of March, since my job will be done.

But, meanwhile, we have restored sight to some people, and those people are very grateful. Their smiles and words of thanks are payment enough for all our work behind the scenes on their behalf.

I just need to keep my focus on those we have helped, and be     thankful for the opportunity to be here to do as much as we have. My best story for this week is a young man, age 28, who has had diabetes for years and has been blind for two years.  He has a five year old daughter that he hasn't been able to see for nearly half her life.  His prognosis was poor--cataracts induced by diabetes are generally accompanied by other diabetic eye problems. We did the surgery anyway--some improvement is better than none.

Yesterday, when the bandage was removed, he could see almost perfectly!  Imagine, a young father/husband has been restored to a full, productive life, able to work and provide for his family. Now I remember why we're here!

I'll probably write once or twice more before I leave, but I'd like to take his opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have followed my adventures in Madagascar and have prayed for these people with me.  If I have one take-home lesson from these two years with Mercy Ships, it is an increased appreciation that God is interested in the details of what we do, and he gets involved in response to prayer. The splashy miracles that occasionally happen are fun, but I am even more impressed with his consistency in managing the little obstacles that we bring to him day after day.

Last year in Congo, the biggest hurdle to providing surgery seemed to be blood pressures, and we saw God put his finger on them to lower them just below the cutoff point with amazing consistency.

This year, both blood pressures and blood sugars are stumbling blocks to surgery, and once again, in his quiet, behind-the-scenes, non-dramatic way, God is enabling us to do surgery by controlling those numbers.



Marilyn Neville

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


  1. So sweet! It's amazing how much just changing one life means.

  2. Loved this post, there's no better reward in this life than helping others... :)

  3. I have followed your time on this journey through this blog :) I think that even if you had only operated on one person it would have been worth it :) xxx


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