Sunday, April 21, 2013

Africa Mercy - Ward Nursing: 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. Below are two emails sent April 14 and 17. Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on this ship. 

14 Apr 2013
ward nursing

This evening is my last scheduled shift as a ward nurse.  What an interesting two weeks it has been...such a different flavor from hospital nursing at home.  The pace is slower, for one thing, and the patients are not acutely ill, just recovering from surgery.  I had to laugh at myself last night.  I was organized and on task...and there wasn't all that much to do.  I found myself waiting for that window of one hour prior to a scheduled medication or treatment to get things done as soon as possible, "just in case."  Just in case...what?  I suddenly realized that I was expecting the unexpected admission, the sudden crisis down the hall, any of the myriad of things that can happen at home...and it's different here.  We are not a general hospital, and our surgeries are scheduled.  "Just in case" is pretty limited in scope.

Relax and enjoy the evening, Marilyn!  Play with the kids.  Dance with the ladies.  Be a hostess as well as a nurse.

Our ward quickly becomes a community.  One of my patients was a five-year old boy with major plastic surgery, so he has been here for several weeks while his graft sites heal.  His father is here with him, as patient as the day is long.  But last weekend, he declared that he had to go home to Kenya, a two day trip, to pay urgent bills, or his family would be evicted from their home.  No, he knew no one in Conakry who could be a caregiver for the boy.  No, no one else could pay his bills for him.  No, no one else could come from Kenya to care for the boy.  So, could he just leave the boy with us?  No, there has to be a caregiver for anyone under the age of 16.  Well, could he take the boy with him?  Not a good idea.  Hate to ruin a good surgery by discharging too soon.  Aha!  He asked another caregiver to watch his son for the two days he would be gone, a woman he only knew for a week or two because their sons were both in Ward A.  Problem solved.  I'm not even sure they were from the same tribe or language group...but it worked out.

Not all the stories have happy endings.  One little boy was admitted for removal of a huge lipoma, a non-cancerous tumor, that was growing on his neck and chest.  Unfortunately, x-rays revealed that the tumor had grown into his chest cavity and was already entangled with critical structures.  Surgery would require a thoracic surgeon, which we didn't have, and perhaps even then would be impossible.  It was just too late.

A year or two ago, perhaps...but not now.  Heartbreaking, to send him away to die of something that could have been cured, if only...

OK.  Let's talk about something more cheerful.  I got to watch eye surgeries one day last week.  Cataracts are a big deal here, both for children and for adults.  Our surgeons have trained some West African surgeons in cataract removal.  This is a perfect training place because we get hundreds of people hoping for surgery, so the surgeon can practice all day long, and he quickly becomes proficient.  I watched one Guinean doctor replacing cataracts and simultaneously training another Guinean while he worked.  They could whip through a surgery in about fifteen minutes.  Very smooth!

Time for lunch, and then another evening shift in Ward A.  It will be a little hard to say goodbye...and I've only been there for two weeks.  I can see that I'll have to return to the ward for visits once I'm working elsewhere.



Remember the boy with the huge inoperable lipoma on his neck and chest?

Well, guess what?  They did some more CT scans and decided that there was a fighting chance that they could remove it.  I guess some lipoma's are stuck pretty hard to the surrounding structures, but some peel off more easily.  Maybe his would peel.

His surgery was today, and it was apparently very successful.  The surgeon believes that he got it all, so the boy should recover to lead a normal life.  I'm told that his father is ecstatic.  He'd already lost one child to this malady, and for a while thought he would lose this one, too.  Anyway, to those who prayed for this boy and his family, thank you.  Who knows?  Maybe the Lord loosened that tumor up in response to prayer.  Please pray for his continued recovery and for a fruitful life in the years that have been restored to him.  Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. This running commentary has been thought-provoking and uplifting. And for one who has understood that 'you can't save them all' no matter who 'them' are, to have that final piece of information on the boy with the lipoma made me choke up. Wonderful... Simply magnificent! Thank you for posting.


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