Sunday, October 29, 2017

Africa Mercy - Two Weeks Gone: One Nurse's Story



My friend Marilyn is in Africa serving as a nurse on the Africa Mercy. She emails me and I share her words with you. For those of you who know nothing of  Marilyn's story, the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship that travels the African coast with a crew of nurses and doctors. They come from all over to give of their time as volunteers. 




"Two Weeks Gone"
 2017-09-30

Hard to believe I've been here two weeks already.  "Time flies when
you're having fun" seems to hold true once again.  And I certainly have
been having a wonderful time...not "fun" exactly, just joy in the
journey.  I was going to take a day trip to an animal preserve and
botanical garden a couple of hours away, but the captain made it a "no
go" zone due to demonstrations and unrest in that area.  Perhaps I'll
have another opportunity if/when the political climate settles down.
Anyway, I haven't seen much of the country--just the path from the team
house to the ship, to the eye clinic, and back.

 Douala itself seems peaceful.  There are "no go" areas in the city, but
 it's due to thieves and rough characters in those areas, not political
 unrest.  As African port cities go, Douala seems more prosperous than
 some.  There are many paved streets (some major potholes, to be
 sure...), round-abouts, and traffic lights.  Lots of traffic, of
 course, both taxi and private vehicles, and probably ten times as many
 motorbikes as cars.  Driving is "situational" rather than
 rule-governed, so cars nose into intersections to muscle their way
 through the congestion, and motorbikes slither all around everyone,
 going every which way.  Pedestrians stroll through traffic with a
 casualness that I certainly wouldn't feel.  I don't think I'd ever be
 comfortable driving in Africa!  It takes a certain aggressiveness--but
 not too much--to drive in conformity with local expectations.  You
 don't want to play chicken with the big trucks, but if you hesitate and
 yield to oncoming traffic,  you'll never get home.

We continue to screen for cataract patients four days a week.  Of those
who come to the initial screening, the likely surgical candidates are
scheduled for secondary screening at the clinic in batches of about
60/day.  Of those, the ones that are approved for surgery then have
their eye measurements done and are given a date to come to the ship for
surgery.  These first two steps of the process have been underway for
several days now, and they seem to be going well.  Surgery itself starts
on Monday.

On Friday, the eye team debriefed a bit.  Several of the day crew said
how hard it was to turn people away that we are not able to help.
Rolland told of one man who wanted to know if perhaps someone in Europe
or the States could have helped him if he'd had the money to go.  When
we told him that no one could have helped him, not even in Europe or
America, because his eyes were too damaged, it was a moment of
revelation for Rolland.  As he said, "I suddenly realized that money
can't buy everything."  That's a pretty profound truth for an ambitious
young man.  One wonders how it will impact the course of his life.

At the Hope Center, an eight-year-old girl had diarrhea.  Poo was
everywhere--her clothes, her bed, the floor.  The facilitator (crew
member, in charge of the shift) and one of the day crew set to work
cleaning her up, reassuring her, loving on her.  Another day crew person
was watching.  Later, he said, "When I saw that mess, I just wanted to
get away.  Even when my own baby has a poopy diaper, I get repulsed and
hand her to my wife.  Why is that?  I want to change, and have more love
and compassion."  Moral of the story:  It's not just the patients whose
lives are transformed around here.  Ours are, too.

For me, seeing life through another's eyes, like the stories above,
rattles my complacency, my sense of entitlement, and makes me ever more
profoundly thankful for all I have, all the opportunities I have had,
and for the incredible privilege of being here.

--
  Marilyn  

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Sharon for sharing Marilyn's story and the Africa Mercy. These words say it all: 'For me, seeing life through another's eyes, like the stories above, rattles my complacency, my sense of entitlement, and makes me ever more profoundly thankful for all I have, all the opportunities I have had,
    and for the incredible privilege of being here'.

    My late father-in-law was an ophthalmologist very involved here with our African people but that is another story ..

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  2. Isn't she an amazing writer? I'm thrilled to share her experience and words with my blog friends. I have known Marilyn for many years, since the 1970s. I've often told her she should write a book....and so she is!

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