Monday, March 5, 2018

Africa Mercy - Milestones, Guinea, Update on Frank: One Nurse's Story

More from Marilyn in Africa....  Sorry these postings are so late! My friend, as you know, is in Africa serving as a nurse on the Africa Mercy. She emails me and I share her words with you. For those of you who know nothing of  Marilyn's story, the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship that travels the African coast with a crew of nurses and doctors. They come from all over to give of their time as volunteers. 


"Milestone Patient"

Ten years ago, Dr. Strauss did the first surgery on the Africa Mercy.
Recently, he did the 30,000th surgery.  That's a lot of surgeries for
one ship!  I thought you'd like to see this famous patient.

  Marilyn Neville

"Guinea is next"

     The Africa Mercy is planning to go to Guinea next year.  I was

     there in 2013, before the Ebola outbreak.  It was a poor country
     then; it is much worse now.  Ebola devastated the health industry,
     among other things:  it seems that the physicians and nurses either
     died or fled.   I have heard that there is no anesthesia machine in
     the entire country, which means no surgeries.  There are no
     ophthalmologists at all, and the once-thriving eye clinic in
     Contonou is barely functional now.  Furthermore, Ebola survivors
     have a host of eye problems as a result of the disease, including
     cataracts.  (27% of those with the disease did survive…)  It sounds
     like we will have our work cut out for us!  I am excited about the
     prospect of going to Guinea.  I have applied, but of course, I
     don’t know yet if they will select me as part of the team.  Stay

    Meanwhile, back in Cameroon, we are still doing surgeries and
    training surgeons.  Patricia is a Cameroon surgeon who has been
    training with Dr. Glenn Strauss for the last several months.  She
    had never actually done surgery before she came to us, but she
    caught on quickly and has become pretty proficient.  Not as fast as
    Dr. Glenn, of course…but who is?  She plans to set up a surgical
    clinic in the northern part of Cameroon, in an area that currently
    has no eye surgeries available.  Mercy Ships plans to equip her with
    the surgical tools she needs and send her off with our blessing
    soon.  Starting in January, we will have a new Cameroonian trainee,
    one who plans to operate in Douala or Yaounde, I believe.  It’s one
    thing to blow into town and do surgeries; it’s another to invest
    time and resources in the surgeons who will remain after we leave.
    Of course, not all countries have the health infrastructure to allow
    a surgeon to thrive, but Cameroon does.  (Guinea doesn’t…no training
    program next year.)

     The rainy season is over, followed almost immediately by the
     harridan wind season.  We’re pretty far from the Sahara Desert, so
     we don’t get sandstorms, just dust.  It looks like a permanent case
     of LA smog out there.  We haven’t seen the sun in days.  It does
     keep it cooler, though.  It is merely “overcast” hot and humid
     instead of truly tropical-African hot and humid.  Works for me!
     I’m surprised we don’t see more lung problems, though, if they
     breathe this dust every year.  Maybe this dust isn’t corrosive like
     smog, and our little lung cilia are able to keep up.

     The patient on my heart today is a man I had to deny surgery
     yesterday.  His eye qualified for surgery, but his foot didn’t.  He
     asked a good question, “What does my foot have to do with my eye?
     Why can’t you do surgery?”  But the risk of his spreading the
     infection from his foot wound to the newly operated eye is
     significant, and that would be devastating to his eye, destroying
     what vision he does have, and if not treated aggressively, maybe
     even worse consequences.  I encouraged him to see a doctor, get his
     foot properly treated with antibiotics, and come back to schedule
     eye surgery when the foot wound is not infected.  I only hope that
     he is able to afford to do that, and I hope that he heals in time
     to be scheduled.  He’d had the wound for many years, and he seemed
     pretty discouraged.  I’m such a softy, I probably would have
     explained the risks and allowed him to choose to have the surgery
     anyway…but I’m not the surgeon, and it’s not my call.  On the other
     hand, I had just such a patient two weeks ago, with a
     long-standing, infected, non-healing leg wound.  I gave him the
     same instructions, and he did what I suggested.  He returned this
     week to show me his now-healthy, now-healing wound; I got to
     schedule his eye surgery!  Maybe yesterday’s patient will do

I've included a picture of Dr. Patricia doing YAG under Dr. Strauss'

  Marilyn Neville

"Update on Frank"

Good news!  The Communications Team visited Frank again recently.  Remember how, before surgery, Frank wouldn’t smile for love nor money?  He was so depressed, with a hopeless-looking future.  Well, this visit, he never stopped smiling.  He was so joyous, so full of life and hope.  Before surgery, he was completely blind.  He couldn’t go anywhere unless someone led him by the hand.  He couldn’t do much of anything; he certainly couldn’t hold a job.  He lived in a very small world—his home, a one-room shack with no door.  Remember how disappointed we all were immediately after surgery, when he didn’t get the dramatic improvement that we expected?   Well, it seems that his vision is still slowly improving, at least somewhat.  He now has “count fingers” vision—still rated as blind, but considerably more useful than nothing.  He can walk independently, a freedom he treasures highly.  He is gradually venturing further and further from home by himself.  In fact, he is now looking for a job!  I suppose he could be focused on disappointment, that his vision is still very poor after such high hopes.  Instead, he has chosen to be thankful and to treasure what he does have.  He could be the poster child for an anti-grumbling campaign.  Certainly, he blesses me by his example.  Pretty nice Christmas present, don’t you think?



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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.