Saturday, January 31, 2015

Africa Mercy - Ready, Set, Go: One Nurse's Journey

Another post from Marilyn on the Africa Mercy in Madagascar. Cataract surgeries have begun again, and after reading her descriptions, it truly feels like love in action. This dedicated team has their hands full, and moreover, bad weather is headed their way. It's cyclone season in the Indian Ocean!  ----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).

"Ready, set, go"
23 January 2015

Cataract surgeries begin again on Monday! This week has been a
time of preparation--half the team was in Tana screening for more patients, and half the team remained in Tamatave to screen for local patients and to prepare housing for our Tana patients at the Hope Center. We moved 65 mattresses across town in an open truck bed on a rainy day. We got the first load of 17 mattresses moved just before the rains started, and we were able to move the rest during an intermission in the rain around midday. At least our patients won't have to sleep on wet mattresses! The next day, we needed to shop for linens and dinnerware for 60 people. Can you believe we accomplished it in three stops? 

It truly was a week of many small blessings. Next week, it will feel so good to be underway with cataract surgeries--that's what we came for. It seems like I've heard a lot of inspiring stories lately from elsewhere around the ship. I heard of one young boy who wouldn't smile at first. He went through surgery rather stoically, but didn't interact with others much at all. Then another young boy with the same problem was admitted, and before you know it, the first lad was befriending the second, and now they are great pals, playing all around the ward, shyness forgotten.
At the Hope Center, where patients go to live while they continue
their physical therapy or dressing changes after surgery, there was another young boy, maybe age seven. His caretaker was his
grandmother, but she wasn't very nice to him. He was an unhappy
little guy who wasn't putting much effort into recovery. The staff
of the Hope Center started intentionally loving the grandmother, and she really mellowed. The boy perked up, started working on his therapy, and is now happily riding a Big Wheel.

Then there was the little girl, maybe aged 4, who was the caregiver for her mother. The Hope Center didn't have running water that day (it happens a lot there), so the little girl was trying to lug a pail of water up the stairs, one step at a time. One of our team stopped to help her. At the top of the steps, Kelly asked the little girl which way to go, but she didn't understand. Kelly took the pail in one hand and took the girl's hand in the other. The lights came on, the grin spread from ear to ear, and she led the way to her mother's bed.

Not all the stories are happy, of course. I'm thinking of an old couple who came to the eye clinic for screening this week. The woman was completely blind, but unfortunately, it wasn't due to cataracts, and we couldn't help her. The man couldn't see very well, but his problem, too, wasn't something we could fix. It was hard to deliver such news, but the reason they stay in my mind as the graciousness of their response. They thanked us quietly, and the old man gently led his wife out the door. His kindness to her touched my heart.

It is cyclone season here. Last week a tropical storm crossed Madagascar to join a rather large cyclone, not far from us out in the Indian Ocean. It could have had a significant impact on us, but fortunately, it headed in the other direction. We did get some pretty good swells, though, that broke a few of our mooring lines. Now the captain has announced a new weather pattern nearby that is predicted to produce even larger swells by Sunday. We may need to anchor offshore for a few hours to ride it out--it's safer than being too near the concrete dock. In the event of an imminent cyclone threat, we would need to suspend surgeries, transfer the existing patients to the Hope Center, along with some nurses to care for them, and take the ship north, out of the path of the storm. February could be an interesting month around here!

Perhaps, next time I'll have some stories from our cataract patients. I'm looking forward to that.


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


  1. Hi Sharon. Often I sit here and read what Marilyn sends you, with a lump in my throat and tears welling. I don't know how they keep it together. Even professional training has it's limits when it comes to the heartstrings being tugged on. Thank you again for sharing their stories.

    Also I hope to post this week on the 'Very Inspiring Blog Award,' from you! Thanks, Sharon.

  2. Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital has a world class Institute of Ophthalmology with highly experienced staff, backed by the latest technology. ..Eye Surgery Hospital


"Stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary
(A.B. Alcott). Stay and visit awhile. Your comments mean a lot to me.

About Me

My photo
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.