Thursday, March 14, 2013

Africa Mercy - Hiccup: One Nurse's Journey

This is a running post about my friend's journey to Africa and work as a nurse on the Africa Mercy. Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on this ship. I am still waiting for news "M" has arrived safely! Her latest email is dated 3/7.


Just getting to Conakry seems to be a challenge.  To get the humanitarian rates, our group of 19 was split into two groups.  My group was scheduled to fly from Tyler to Houston, Chicago, Brussels, and Conakry.  The other group was scheduled to fly from Dallas to Newark, Brussels, and Conakry.  Because of weather in Newark, the Dallas group was eventually, after hours of uncertainty, rescheduled to Chicago.
They arrived moments before our plane to Brussels was loaded.  So far, so good. We boarded for Brussels almost on time and moved slowly down the runway for fifteen minutes or so...and then returned to the gate.  Mechanical troubles, they said.  Now, that was the same plane we'd just flown in coming to Chicago--I'm glad "mechanical troubles" didn't affect us before we landed!  After fiddling with the problem for a while, they scrapped that plane and got us another.
But, with all the delays, our turn-around time in Brussels was gone.  We were going to miss our connection to Conakry.  That was a problem, because there are only two flights a week to Conakry.  Did they want to put us on the flight to Brussels and park us there for three days?
Shucks, maybe not. It took hours, but eventually they decided to park us in Chicago for three days.  We'll resume our travel itinerary on Saturday to catch the Sunday flight into Conakry.  Hopefully.
Of course, our luggage didn't fare so well.  Some of it is here, but quite a bit of it is somewhere else in the world...Newark?, Brussels?
Conakry? A back room in Chicago?  A random airport in Asia?  They may eventually round it all up for us...or not...but the worst of it is, they have lost the box of medications packed in ice that we were taking to the ship.
So, we traveled for about seventeen hours yesterday, and we made it from Texas to Chicago. I, for one, was exhausted and glad for a nice comfy bed and a day of rest.  Saturday will begin another marathon travel day--it'll take about 24 hours, if all goes well, to get from here to Conakry.
Of course, plans for our field service have changed again.  One of our leaders went a few days ahead of us to line things up, and he is doing a terrific job.  The current plan includes some time in a school for deaf children and some repair work in a men's prison, both located in the safe zone of Conakry.  But...well, we're fluid if need be.  I am thankful it's not my problem to work all this out.
So, contrary to expectations, I am not spending the next couple of days painting a dental clinic in the tropics of Guinea.  I am lounging, sightseeing, and resting in cold, snowy Chicago, mostly at the expense of United Airlines.  Pretty tough, eh? 


  1. At least she's seeing the bright side. I'm not sure how happy I'd be if most of my luggage was MIA.

  2. I hate when luggage gets lost. At least she's still staying upbeat!

  3. Jai and Sherry- thanks so much for your comments! The luggage ordeal, especially the missing medicine box, really got to me too. But M always seems to do well in the end. M has emailed me in the past from India, eastern Europe, and one other time from Africa! My only regret is I was not online then to post her emails.


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