Thursday, January 26, 2017

Beginnings In Benin

Somebody once told me that the emotions you go through during your time on the Africa Mercy can go a little like this...... 

Best. Day. Ever. and then the next minute what am I doing?!? Needless to say this first month in Benin has been an adjustment. Same ship, different country, different port, some familiar faces and many new faces. When I stepped onto the ship it all did feel very familiar. It was almost like I had never left and yet I was home for 10 months. Hard to explain but in the end it felt right. And as we prayed during change of shift and before my patient went to the operating room I remembered why I was drawn back to this place and why I love working with people that are of like mind and of one accord. I never thought I would do Mercy Ships at all and now I have the opportunity a second time and I don't take that lightly or for granted at all.

I have been caring for general surgery patients but will hopefully care for the OBF ladies once the program starts at the end of February. General surgery patients consist of both adults and children with surgeries for hernia repairs, goiter removal, untreated congenital abnormalities and a host of different kinds surgical problems. I will also get the opportunity to care for the maxofacial, and plastics reconstruction patients because they often overflow and get moved to beds in the general surgery unit. So far I have taken care of more kids and babies than I have in my whole career. I love children and all but when they are sick and require nursing care I'm a little lost haha. Big hand clap for all the parents and health care professionals taking care of sick children out there. I have to say the little ones are slowly growing on me though :) and I have had lots of support from my co-workers which has been great. It's just another way to advance and stretch my nursing skills which I am grateful for. 

So far I have been able to get off the ship and see the surrounding area which has been great. It looks and feels very different from Madagascar but I'm slowly learning more about the culture and ways of Benin. I also took the opportunity to go to a couple orphanages with Mercy Ministries. If you don't remember Mercy Ministries partners with local ministries to coordinate outreaches where all crew members can get involved and spend time at these places. Most of the time during these outreaches we do a bible story, craft, sing and play games with the children. We don't do anything really medical during these outreaches which is one of the things I like about it. I try to get out of my medical brain and just spend time with the kids and love on them. One was a girls orphanage and the second a boy and girls orphanage about two hours away from the ship. The second orphanage is called Arbre de via which means Tree of Life. I was truly impressed by the staff there and how they have all dedicated their lives to these kids. Really made me happy to hear the stories of how they each followed God's call to Benin. The following is the link if you are interested in more information:

Once again I'm just amazed by the people I have met so far. Seasoned nurses that have decided to spend some of the latter days of their career in service to the people of Benin and to the community on the Africa Mercy. Retired couples, young couples with children, middle age and every age you can think of all from different backgrounds, nations and professions reminding me that I'm not so crazy for leaving my home to serve on this floating hospital ship. The patients, crew members and day crew on this ship never cease to amaze me with their strength, wisdom, faith and love.  

I have been in Benin for about month but the Africa Mercy has been docked here in Cotonou since August 2016. Here are some pictures of what has been going on around here.

Our orthopedic kids have a very long recovery with lots of physical therapy and multiple cast changes. They are doing great though and mom and kiddos are all smiles about their new, straight legs! 

The plastics reconstruction program is also going pretty strong right now. This isn't the type of plastic surgery that is preformed at home though. Patients often lose mobility in their arms, fingers or legs from skin contractures that form after having a severe burn that wasn't treated properly. The surgeon releases those contractures and grafts new skin onto the site to restore their range of motion. These patients also have a long recovery with many dressing changes. They truly are brave and strong individuals!   

The eye clinic is also up and running this month. They mostly perform cataract removal surgeries which is a great need here in Benin. Most of these patients have had cataracts for many years causing varying degrees of vision loss. The surgery is simple and quick but truly life changing for the patient. 

The ponseti clinic has been working hard since August. Ponseti is a technique that can correct clubfeet through a series of casts. Mercy Ships crew members are also partnering with a local ponseti clinic to help further educate and train local physicians. They recently had a celebration for the first patients that were able to have their casts removed for the last time. As with any good celebration here in Benin there was a lot of singing and dancing involved!

"Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful acts." Psalm 105:1-2

On the right hand corner of this page I have added a link to my flickr account which is where you can see more pictures of the ship, Mercy Ministires, the city of Cotonou and just pictures I have taken over the last month.

Just as a little side note if you follow me on any other social media outlet. You might think to yourself I wonder if this girl is even working or taking care of patients?!? I mean I do take advantage of my days off :) However, just like at home I as a nurse have the responsibility of respecting and protecting these patients and their privacy. You will find general patient stories here on my blog and only photos of patients that have been taken and approved by our communications team here on the Africa Mercy. 

Thank you so much for your understanding, love and support so far. For those of you praying continue to keep the country of Benin, its people, crew members aboard the Africa Mercy and the rest of this field service in your prayers. It's just the beginning for me here in Benin but I'm excited for all that is ahead!

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.