Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Africa Mercy - Lemurs: One Nurse's Journey

More from my good friend Marilyn in Madagascar. She does a bit of touring with the staff in between setting up the clinic and sees the Lemur Zoo and Madagascar's famous rain forest. Would have loved to have seen the cinnamon and clove trees, and vanilla vines, and of course, the lemurs.....Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

16 Nov 2014

The rainy season is soon upon any sightseeing is best done now rather than later.  They say we get over 3 meters of rain a year--that's a lot of water, and it mostly comes in torrential downpours, with hot, humid sunshine in between.  Tropical rain forest weather, yes?  I imagine roads suffer a lot of erosion, and travel becomes more difficult.

So, with that in mind, I took an opportunity to visit the Lemur Zoo, located in a rain forest less than an hour from here.  I expected a "zoo," meaning a collection of penned-up animals. What a pleasant surprise!  Yes, they had several species of lemurs in cages, but the cages were spacious and clean.  Moreover, they only keep them there for a couple of years to help them breed and raise some babies, and then they turn them loose into the rain forest again. They put microchips in the lemurs before release so that they can track and study their habits.  The whole focus is to preserve and stabilize the endangered lemur populations.

We watched the lemurs in the cages and the free-range lemurs in the trees overhead for a while, and then we took a hike through the rain forest with a guide.  Our destination was a lovely waterfall, but all along the way he pointed out the various trees, vines, and other plants of interest.  There is such an abundance of vegetation, so

much variety.  We saw cinnamon trees, clove trees, vanilla vines, rosewood, ebony, various palm trees, bamboo, and all sorts of plants with medicinal uses.  You really can find everything you need in a rain forest if you know what to look for.

The folklore of the Malagasy people is rich with this knowledge. Pam is normally the coordinator for the peri-op room where I work, but her mother needs her to come home for a few weeks. I'll need to learn the ins and outs of what Pam does before she leaves on Thursday, since I'll need to coordinate until her return sometime in January. We begin surgeries in two weeks, and of course, the day crew I'll be working with have never done this before. I think, though, that it will go smoothly.  I already know most of what Pam does, and the day crew seem eager and willing to take direction, so supervision shouldn't be too tricky.

Meanwhile, we are searching for other sites for screening in nearby towns, still looking for patients who need cataract surgery. Kathryn will go north tomorrow, and south on Tuesday, searching for possible screening sites, talking to officials, and trying to make arrangements. Then we'll need to publicize, work out the transportation issues, and hope we can find the patients to fill the surgery schedule and keep the surgeons busy.

The next couple of weeks are filled with "secondary screening," meaning a full eye exam for the people found in the field screenings who might qualify for surgery.  Oh, and we also need to set up our clinic before we can do the secondary screening...and the clinic isn't quite ready for occupancy yet. We're holding our breath that we can get ready before Friday, the day the first batch of patients are scheduled to come.  I expect it will all work out, but not well in advance, with a healthy cushion for unforeseen  difficulties.  It's part of the ripple effect of having to change our field service at the last minute. I'll update you again once we get closer to starting our eye surgeries. Meanwhile, keep us in your prayers as we travel the "gravel road" (a slightly rough ride, but not too bad) toward that day.

Marilyn Neville

[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]


  1. I am so glad that your friend can take time off to see some sights and the Lemur zoo looks like it would have been fun and wonderful how they are helping the Lemurs-so many animals need help

  2. Hi Sharon and Marilyn - fascinating to read about the lemurs and how they're kept etc .. and I'm glad they're looking to ensure their longevity ...

    Sounds like you'll be busy with the new set up til you're completely covered with it - good luck and so good to have these updates .. cheers Hilary

  3. I have so enjoyed these posts and am glad to see them back - so good of you to feature them! Have a wonderful weekend!

  4. Thanks everyone for your supportive comments. You keep me wanting to post these emails and to continue Marilyn's story. I know it means a lot to her. Wishing you all the very best.


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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.