Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mercy Ship Expedition - Three Good Stories: One Nurse's Story

My friend Marilyn is off on another 
Mercy Ship adventure in Africa. Those 
who followed her story before on the 
Africa Mercy know that Marilyn is a 
volunteer nurse on a hospital ship that 
sails the African coast in search of patients. 
She emails me and I share her post with you. 
I hope you enjoy!

"Three Good Stories"
 March 19, 2017  

Two cataract stories to warm your heart: 

Kabir: He arrived at the clinic for screening, but he couldn't walk.
Hearts sank, because patients have to walk up the gangway to get onto
the ship for surgery. But, Kabir is resourceful. As you can see from
the picture, he gets around pretty well, using flip-flops on his hands.
He had dense cataracts; he was a good candidate for surgery. And he got
good results; now he can see. 

Paola: She is a 20 year old student, but she was completely blind from
cataracts. She was one of our first patients this field service. She
had both cataracts removed, with wonderful results, so she now faces a
bright future with great joy.
We've been doing cataract surgery for 15-20 patients a day. I wish I
knew the deeper story of the impact the surgery has in all of their
lives and families. It would be overwhelming, I'm sure.


Meanwhile, there are other surgeries also happening every day around
here. One life-changing surgery is the repair of fistulas that some
women develop after a difficult delivery. The babies are usually dead
at birth, but on top of that trauma, the woman discovers that she now
leaks urine and/or feces through the vagina. This is a socially
devastating condition, and it lasts a lifetime. Some of the women we
repair have suffered for decades and have seen a dozen doctors and
clinics seeking help, spending who knows how much money, to no avail.


We have a Dress Ceremony to celebrate when these ladies are ready to be
discharged after surgery. We have a beautiful dress made for each of
them, sing and dance, and share their joy as they tell their stories.
Five ladies participated in today's ceremony (not the ones in the pictures, 

since there's a delay in getting photos from the communications department
to share, but it's the same scene and similar dresses.) One of  today's ladies 
had been looking for help for 34 years, another for 17 years, a third had a 
dream of being cured on a ship, so she knew to come to us when we arrived. 
All were beautiful, joyous, and ready for a new lease on life.  

Isn't this a fantastic place?


(Three ladies with a Mercy nurse)


Paola and a Mercy nurse

Mercy Ship Expedition - First Three Days: One Nurse's Story

My friend Marilyn is off on another 
Mercy Ship adventure in Africa. Those 
who followed her story before on the 
Africa Mercy know that Marilyn is a 
volunteer nurse on a hospital ship that 
sails the African coast in search of patients. 
She emails me and I share her post with you. 
I hope you enjoy!

"First Three Days"
March 15, 2017

We have been seeing about 20 patients a day for cataract surgery. The
days tend to start with a lot of hurry-scurry as we try to get the first
lot of patients aboard and ready for surgery. Imagine being blind, most
likely old, walking up a gangway and into air conditioning, which you
may have never experienced, onto a ship, also something new, down an
elevator, another new experience, around some corners through all sorts
of sounds, and finally settled into a chair in a hot, noisy room. And
you did this without your family or familiar caregiver, holding the
shoulder of the stranger in front of you in a train of about five
patients. Then people put drops in your eyes, and eventually you face
the challenge of surgery at the hands of strangers from another land who
don't even speak your language. I think it must take a lot of courage,
and reflects the urgency of the need they feel, to brave so much.

Today, our oldest patient was 109 years old. I should fare so well at
her age! She was from the northern part of the country and spoke only
one language, her local dialect. One of our translators speaks 10
languages, but not that one. Her son came onto the ship with her, so we
could communicate in our room, but he wasn't allowed into surgery. That
was a scramble, trying to find someone, anyone, among the day crew who
could speak to her in the OR. Finally found someone. :-)

So far, I haven't done anything but work. I'm so tired by the end of
the day, I just eat supper, shower, and go to bed. But, that's what I
came for, isn't it? No complaints! The ship has a three day holiday
about every six weeks, and wouldn't you know, it's this weekend. So
surgery again tomorrow, and then three days off. I signed up for an
excursion on Saturday to a local attraction. It's a chance to see a bit
of the country. I'll probably have more to say about that next time.

I don't know what I'll do with the rest of the weekend, probably just
enjoy ship life with whomever I run into or sit with at dinner. This
is a wonderful community, full of really interesting people from all
sorts of places. Tonight I randomly sat with a couple from Australia
who, it turns out, speak fluent Swedish and have marvelous stories of
God provision for them in that country. The Swedish woman who was
sitting with us then shared the creative way God confirmed her call to
Mercy Ships nine years ago. She has been an instrumental part of the
eye program, so I'm really glad he did!

Still having a wonderful time.

Blessings, all.

Mercy Ship Expedition - In Benin: One Nurse's Story

(Sorry, 1st post was out of sequence....start here)

My friend Marilyn is off on another 
Mercy Ship adventure in Africa. Those 
who followed her story before on the 
Africa Mercy know that Marilyn is a 
volunteer nurse on a hospital ship that 
sails the African coast in search of patients. 
She emails me and I share her post with you. 
I hope you enjoy!

3/13/2017 10:22 PM
Mercy Ships, in Benin

If you get this email, it's because I thought you'd like to hear from me while I'm in Benin with Mercy Ships, and group email is the only practical way to accomplish that. So, please bear with me, or let me know if you want to opt out.

At long last, I have returned to Mercy Ships, almost two years since I left last time. It feels like home, and feels like I've been gone only for a long weekend, not two years. I am surprised and pleased to discover how many friends I have still on the ship. It has been a grand time of reunion. I am only scheduled to be working with the ophthalmic team for four weeks this time. That is going to pass so quickly. It's a good thing that I plan to return to the ship again next summer for a seven-month stay, working as a hostess. Without that, it would be painful to reawaken my love for this place only to have to leave again after four weeks.

But, I am here now. Yesterday was my first day of work in the peri-op room, caring for patients immediately before and after their cataract surgeries. This is the same job I had before, and that was a good thing, since I needed to hit the ground running. We had 20 surgical patients yesterday, plus one woman who returned with an eye infection after surgery and needed to be seen by the doctor. The doctor was training an intern, so surgeries were much slower than sometimes. We weren't done until 7:00 PM, a long day for us all, including the patients who were sitting and waiting from morning until evening for their surgeries. I think we have 22 surgeries scheduled for today, so it will probably be another long day.

Yes, I was exhausted, with sore back, legs, and feet. Yes, I was thrilled to be here doing this job. Yes, I saw God at work in the chaos, protecting our patients from the worst of our mistakes or near-mistakes. Yes, it is good to be living with a sense of purpose, partnering with God to care for a few of the world's poor in such a dramatic way. I feel truly alive when I'm here, and I'm practically
intoxicated with the joy of it all.

I'm still off schedule, waking up at 4:00 AM. But it is now nearly 6:30, and time to go to work. More another day.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things: Breathe, Breathe!

We went biking on the Riverfront Trail for the first time in Richland the other day. Threw the bikes in the back of the pickup and off we went. The air was so fresh and exhilarating. Breathe, breathe. I just kept filling my lungs. So healing to the mind and body.

I was reminded of beautiful Couer D'Alene, Idaho riding along that gorgeous lake, which I have missed since moving here in 2014. Only this time we road along the Columbia River, also beautiful in its meandering way. We passed signs posting the visitations of Lewis and Clark who had explored the area in 1806 (?) and more signs about the Hidatsa and Shoshone Indians, and our famous claim to fame, Sacajawea. Should have had my camera. Darn!

Criminy, I've been missing this time of year more than ever. I don't know about you but winter lasted longer than usual. I'll be working on my a-z posts this weekend. More than half way through and I'm learning a lot about ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. It's amazing we even have records that far back. Even more amazing they are available online. The good side of computers. The bad side is sitting in front of this computer too long!

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Monday, March 20, 2017

A to Z Theme Reveal: Female Scientists Before Our Time

Hi. With all the news about science and the education of our youth in the news of late, gravitating toward a science theme for the A-Z Challenge was easy. I am not a scientist but there are plenty of scientists in my family. 

I also read online that only "6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees vs. 17% of men, meaning men are 2.5 times more likely to enter these high paying fields." Goodness, I would encourage both sexes to enter the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We need more of you!

So being a historian at heart, especially when it comes to women's history, I have decided to explore female scientists, going back as far as I can to women in our ancient past and the Middle Ages. Nothing heavy mind you, and I promise to keep it interesting. 

Best wishes to all who participate this year!!  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mercy Ship Expedition - Stop in Ouidah - One Nurse's Story

My friend Marilyn is off on another 
Mercy Ship adventure in Africa. Those 
who followed her story before on the 
Africa Mercy know that Marilyn is a 
volunteer nurse on a hospital ship that 
sails the African coast in search of patients. 
She emails me and I share her post with you. 
I hope you enjoy!

March 18, 2017

Ouidah was a major departure point for the slave trade--several million
slaves were shipped out of here during those years. The Portuguese had a
big compound, a fort, with a moat filled with crocodiles, and gun
turrets on the four corners. Slaves were kept in the courtyard in the
back, thousands at a time, with no shelter and only a bit of bread to
eat. Many were chained, and many died. From the fort, they were taken
to "cha cha square" where they were sold and branded, then to "the dark
house", another very cramped, airless, sunless place used to "acclimate"
them to life on the ship, which was more of the same. Many died there,
too, of course. None of this was new information, really, but it was
sad to see the actual places where it took place.

Another fact that I've known, but it got more vivid today, is that the
Europeans didn't really go "slave-hunting." The Africans did that.
Instead of killing their enemies from other tribes, they conquered and
sold them to the Europeans. The African kings got quite rich off the
slave trade, so they encouraged it. Plenty of heartlessness all around,
it seems to me.

The trip to and from Ouidah was interesting in itself. It was a good
divided double-lane highway between the cities of Contonou and Ouidah,
about an hour's drive each way. It might have been two lanes, but there
were often three lanes of traffic weaving in and out, not to mention the
swarms of motorbikes. I'd guess there were ten times as many motorbikes
as cars, and a fair number of large trucks also rumbling along. I
figured out that honking the horn was a polite way of saying "I'm coming
up behind you and I plan to pass you, so don't do anything stupid like
swerving into my intended path." There was a lot of horn-blowing...

Buying gas was interesting. There are petrol stations somewhere, I
guess, but gas is cheaper if you buy it from vendors along the roadside,
who sell it in big jugs. Our van just pulled up onto the sidewalk, and
the guy poured about ten gallons of gas into the tank from his jug.
Sometimes they water it down, of course, but quality control isn't high
on the list of requirements. Avoiding the tax at petrol stations is.

There were eleven of us from Mercy Ships on this expedition, and we had
a hired guide who explained things to us in English as we went along.
He had a lot to say about the country, its history, and its politics.
After about 30 years of revolutions, with some presidents lasting only a
day or a week, it finally settled down to presidents lasting for five
year terms, and even getting re-elected. There are about 200 political
parties, the guide said. They aren't really representative of the
people. They are established by rich businessmen, who then use their
influence and their wealth to control elections. The current president
is the richest man in the country and owns the cotton industry. The
second richest man helped him to get elected a year ago, but they have
since had a falling out, so that may be where the next challenge comes
from. Since the richest man controls the port, and since a container of
gold and money "disappeared" from the port before the election, rumor
has it that perhaps that's how the election was purchased... That's the
perspective of our guide, anyway. But maybe it just makes a good story
for the tourists... 

Next week we plan to do cataract surgery on children. Kids get
cataracts for a number of reasons: genetic is a big one, but trauma can
cause it, or rubella during pregnancy, or malnutrition. When we do
children, we do both eyes, because if you don't do both together, the
non-operative eye nerve pathways don't develop properly, so the eye goes
blind even if you remove the cataract later. Children also need to be
done under general anesthesia, so they are admitted to the ward the
night before, a whole different process. I've never been here for
children's cataracts before, so I'm in for new experiences the next two
weeks. Looking forward to it. I'll probably have more to say about
that next time.

Meanwhile, blessings to you all