Sunday, May 28, 2017

Where We've Been, Where We're Going

I feel like it's time for a little recap of what I've been up to over the last two months. As Doc Brown says in Back To The Future " The intent here is to gain a clear perception of humanity. Where we've been, where we're going. The pitfalls and the possibilities. The perils and the promise. Perhaps even an answer to that universal question, why?" We might not get to the universal question of why today but that was really just for all of you that know me and share my love for Back To The Future.

Okay here we go.......

After the Women's Health program finished up at the beginning of April we started doing more general surgeries. Some people like to call this the lumps and bumps program. Patients have mostly benign soft tissue masses removed from their backs, arms, legs, and head. The recovery time is usually very short and most patients are discharged within a few days. In addition, the general surgeons have been doing a ton of hernia repairs. At first I didn't really think of this type of surgery as life-saving or life changing but as I have learned most of these hernias are very large, uncomfortable and sometimes even involve the intestines. If untreated this could cause other serious problems for the patient.These general surgeries don't get as much fan fair or publicity as some of the other surgery specialties but in the end each patient was able to go back to work or school safely and comfortably without any lumps, bumps or hernias so that makes it all worth it.

Final dress ceremony in Benin!

One of our general surgical patients.

We also had some overflow of maxillofacial patients. This included some babies that had their cleft lip/palate repaired. 

As I have mentioned before the Africa Mercy will be leaving Benin pretty soon. Every field service around this time we start doing fewer surgeries and prepare patients for their final discharges. We have parties of all sorts of kinds as well. Farewell parties for long-term crew members, friends, nurses and daycrew. It is filled with a lot of "last moments", excitement for rest is in sight for some crew members, preparation for sailing and lots of goodbyes or see you later's. In order to prepare the hospital for sailing all of the equipment and supplies need to be packed away and every inch of the hospital is cleaned by yours truly the nurses and other volunteers. For those family members who know what it's like opening and closing our summer home every year it is basically like that but on steroids haha! After the ship is prepared and ready it will sail to another location for a maintenance period in preparation for the next country of service which is Cameroon.

Which leads us into the where we're going part or more like where am I going next part. When I first arrived back on the ship rumor had it that Cameroon has a very high rate of obstetric fistulas and that Mercy Ships would be potentially doing fistula surgery the entire 10 months they were in Cameroon. That immediately peaked my interest and I thought I would possibly come back in January 2018 similar to the amount of time I had spent in Benin. I kept it in the back of mind and started praying about it. As the months passed and more preparation for Cameroon started I was asked to be the team leader for the women's health program on the ship. This basically entails overseeing the nurses and daycrew, daily rounds with the surgeons, and the general flow of the program. I am completely humbled to work again with these ladies and have this opportunity to learn more and gain new leadership skills. I know that this will be challenging in more ways than one but I'm really looking forward to seeing how God stretches and grows me through another season with Mercy Ships. Before leaving for Madagascar part of me thought that Mercy Ships would be something that I would just do once and then check it off the list. I see now that God has a much bigger plan for my life then just a check-list. I have given much but I have received, grown and learned more than I ever expected during my time so far with Mercy Ships. I will also get to sail to Cameroon in order to prepare for the field service. I sometimes forget that this ship can actually sail and move so I'll really get to test my sea legs :)

Next stop Douala,Cameroon! 

As of now I am committed to serve from August -December 30th. I realize that my time home will be short but I have complete peace that this is where I'm supposed to be. It doesn't mean I don't have fears, worries, questions or uncertainties. It just means I'm choosing to say yes. I'm choosing to keep my eyes fixed on Him, one step at a time, trusting that He will go before me, letting go of my ways and choosing to open my hands and receive all that He has planned for me. After leaving Benin and before coming home I will do some travels but when I do get home I really look forward to talking with you all in person and catching up. I'm not sure I can thank you enough for your financial, and emotional support but mostly your prayers. I could not do this without all of you and I am thankful for each one of you.

Nurses and daycrew that I have worked alongside with this year. What an honor it has been!

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


Monday, May 15, 2017

Saying No

As our time in Benin is coming to a close in a few weeks we took time last night to reflect on and pray for all of the patients we were unable to help due to a variety of reasons. Saying no is a very real and harsh reality of the process here on the Africa Mercy but I'm so thankful that we serve a God that loves these patients more than we ever could, sees them, knows their names and will continue to walk with them long after the Africa Mercy leaves Benin.

I'm going to write another blog soon about what I have been up to the last few weeks and what my plans are for the summer ahead but I ask you now to join me in praying for the over 6,000 patients that we have had to say no to. Would you also pray for the patients that are still with us now. Many patients still have wounds and incisions that need to heal. We care for them until the very last minute and pray that they are healed before we leave but some will have to be left to finish their care in local facilities. It is hard to leave feeling like a job is unfinished but we place these patients back into God's hands with the knowledge that these patients were never really ours to begin with. They have and will always be in God's hands.

Thank you in advance for you prayers and support!

" Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right will hold me fast." Psalm 139:7-10

P.S. I will now be using MailChimp to send you my blog via email. It should be more efficient and each person should actually receive the email on time. If you are already subscribed and receiving emails you do not have to do anything. For those of you that have not been receiving emails regularly please enter your email on the right hand side of the page where it says subscribe to our mailing list and you should be all set. Thank you!  

Monday, May 1, 2017

You Are A Good Mom

Last year in Madagascar we had a very special orthopedic patient named Fifaliana. Her and her mother won the hearts of so many people on the ship from nurses, to physical therapists, pharmacists, doctors and basically anybody that met them for even a short time. She had a smile that was absolutely contagious and a spirit of joy, courage and boldness that spread to every person that she met. I only took care of her for a short time but had one very special interaction with her and her mother that will probably stay with me for a very long time.

I was visiting some patients at the Hope Center one day and saw Fifaliana sitting by a window looking outside. She waved and flashed that smile that melted hearts and I knew that I had to go see her. I asked a translator to come with me and we visited with Fifaliana and her mom for a short time. I asked Fifaliana how she was, and commented on all the fun drawings on her casts. Fifaliana's recovery was quiet long and required mom to be very hands on and involved in her care. They had been away from their home and other family for a long time and I think it was all really taking a toll on mom. I asked how mom was doing and she gave me a short quick answer that she was good. I could tell she was tired, and maybe a little unsettled. I took her hand, looked her in the eyes and said to the translator "please tell her that she is doing a good job. She is strong. She is courageous and she is a good mom." I watched the mom as the translator began to tell her all of this and the tears started flowing from her eyes and she gave me a big hug. I didn't really say anything else. I just kept hugging her and before I knew it both the translator and I had tears in our eyes. I kept hugging her as the translator continued to talk to her and encourage her. We gave Fifaliana and her mom one last hug and left. I wasn't directly involved in her care much after that but just like everybody else always said hello and greeted the dynamic duo anytime I saw them.

I can't imagine what these moms go through everyday on this ship. Putting their child's life in the hands of complete strangers that don't speak their language. They travel hours away from their home, leave their families, other children and jobs to allow their child to have a surgery that just might change the whole families life forever. Any mom's reading that can relate to this type of situation?

I take care of the obstetric fistula patients and listen to their stories of being in labor for hours and hours and their baby still dying. I read their charts and see that they have been pregnant several times but have no living children. I have never given birth and I don't have children but as a women I can not imagine going through these traumatic events. Any other women or moms that can relate to this type of heartache?

There are even moms on this ship who have answered the call and choose to raise their families in this crazy, full of love and challenges of a community. If the children are of school age some of the mom's have other jobs on the ship but their primary job is mom. I love watching the families and particularly the moms on this ship. Can you imagine trying to occupy your 1 year old in a small cabin space or never knowing if your child will be happy or throw a temper tantrum in the dining room or during a community meeting? How about nap time on a always noisy and buzzing ship? How about the dynamics of play dates with children and parents from all over the world, navigating cultural differences, and different parenting styles. All I know is that surgeons, nurses and other volunteers might get all the fan fair but the moms on the Africa Mercy are the real MVP's. Any missionary mom's out there that can relate? or mom's at home that face similar challenges?

Then there are the countless moms in my own life. Grandmothers, aunts, and sister-in-laws who have loved me well and have been tremendous examples to me of godly women. I have watched them care for their families with so much love, sometimes even tough love, prayer, joy and grace that at the end of the day you know that they would do anything for their children and families.

And my own mom. Forever my biggest fan, always cheering me on, praying for me, giving me advice when I need it and even when I don't ask for it but deep down I know that I need it. She know's me the best even when sometimes I don't like to admit that. Hopefully one day when I have my own kids I can see and really understand how she sees me but for now I'll reflect on all the moments she has picked me up when I was down, listened to my complaining, anxieties and fears, celebrated my successes and encouraged me to pursue God's plan for my life even when it takes me thousands of miles away from home.

There maybe lots of cultural differences and distance between moms at home and the ones I have observed in Madagascar and Benin but something tells me that women and mom's everywhere can relate to these stories. On this Mother's Day I hope children, grandchildren and families shower you fabulous moms with all of the love, and care that you so deserve today and everyday. And in the midst of all the chaos, uncertainty, risks and vulnerability that comes with being a mom may you never forget that you are doing a good job. You are strong. You are courageous. You are a good mom.

If you want to know more about Fifalina's story check out these following links:

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