Sunday, April 7, 2013

Africa Mercy - Calmer Waters: 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. Here is her latest email!

"calmer waters"

It turns out the "traveler's diarrhea" wasn't that at all--I just wasn't tolerating the anti-malarial medication.  I was gradually getting worse and worse--nothing but tea and toast, and not much of that--until one evening I took my doxycycline on my tea/toast diet and had stomach pain for hours.  I finally had the brilliant thought--"It's the doxy!"--and quit taking it.  I promptly got better, much better.  After a couple of days, I could even tolerate a bit of coffee again!  Life is good!

Meanwhile, back to challenge number two--adapting to my new job as ward nurse.  I missed my first three shifts after orientation due to illness, but I have now worked a couple of evening shifts.  Of course, my initial freaking-out fears were unfounded.  I haven't forgotten everything I ever knew about post-operative care.  How we accomplish specific tasks is sometimes quite different here, but the needs are the same.  I still have a lot to learn, but having twenty patients and several nurses in one room certainly has it's advantages for getting help whenever you need it.  That's partly why this place works, even with the high turnover of nurses, even with nurses from many countries and different experience backgrounds.  The whole team is much greater than the sum of us individually.

Speaking of accomplishing tasks by alternative means...we've run out of Ensure.  We have a lot of patients on tube feedings because they've had face, mouth, or neck surgery.  So, what to do?  The dietitian came up with a formula using peanut butter, milk, fiber, and whatnot.  The nurses get out the blender and make their own "Ensure."  Voila.

Last night was party night.  Occasionally the ship holds a barbecue on the dock for all the crew and all the day workers.  After dinner, the day workers from four different tribes did some of their traditional dances for us.  I didn't actually get to go, since I was working, but I saw some video of the dancing, and it was great.  A new face for people we work with every day!

I had to laugh.  Shortly after dinner, three of my four patients suddenly disappeared, along with all of the translators.  They'd all gone to the party on the dock!  Imagine that happening at home!
Meanwhile, my fourth patient was just waking up from anesthesia, and feeling quite talkative.  Thankfully, it was cheerful talk, because I couldn't understand a word he said.  That just seemed to amuse him all the more, so he'd say it again, inviting me with gestures to try harder to understand.  Ah, well, we had fun.

Gotta run, time for work again.



  1. I have heard about this amazing ship and the important and compassionate work the doctors and nurses provide. We are always interested in such efforts in Africa because our daughter served in the Peace Corp for two years, bringing spring water to a village in Kenya. She had to oversee the building of the water tanks as well as the water line from a spring.

    1. What a life changing experience that must have been for your daughter. We need more selfless young people like her in the world. A reminder to all (hers and M's experience) to consider what WE can do (regardless of age). Appreciate the comment!

  2. Hi Sharon, It is so neat to hear her continuing story on board the Mercy Ship. I can feel right along with her the illness that accompanied her medication - not a fun way to take off the pounds. And the close quarters that allow the patients to join the party. I so appreciate these letters. Thanks and God bless, Maria from Delight Directed Living

    1. Yes, she has been through so much, but in a personal note, she also told me she is not discouraged. She knows she is where God wants her! Good to hear from you, Maria!


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