Saturday, December 23, 2017

Final Update From Cameroon!

Since I last wrote you things in the hospital have really picked up. The plastics program has been in full swing with 30+ patients in the hospital at a time. The orthopedic patients have endured hours of rehab sessions and most of them have been discharged home! The maxillofacial specialty really ramped up when we had a returning neurosurgeon performing intense surgeries on patients that have encephaloceles. Encephaloceles are protrusions of the brain and membranes through openings in the skull. They are caused by failure of the neural tube to close during fetal development.

The plastics patients have long recoveries involving skin grafts and lots of dressing changes.
They build such a good community with each other and the crew members.

After two surgeries and weeks of rehab Ulrich has straight legs!

Encephalocele patient pre-op

This month the Africa Mercy reached a significant milestone by performing the 30,000th 
free surgery since opening in 2007! 

Meanwhile in the women's health area things were really getting interested. We had a surgeon who works in a large fistula center in Malawi come to ship for the first time. He is known to perform surgery on the more complicated fistula cases using techniques and special grafts that none of our previous surgeons used. Lets just say myself and the nurses learned so many new things about fistula surgery and the post operative care that is necessary for these ladies. It was challenging at times but the amazing thing is that these ladies otherwise might not have had surgery. Most other surgeons would say no to these ladies because the damage caused by the fistula was to severe and the surgery to complex. With this surgeon and his team these ladies finally got a shot at a successful surgery! Its exciting to think about but also please keep these ladies in your prayers. Their recovery is very long and often not without some complications.

I thought my final weeks on the ship would be a quite, nice transition but it proved to be the exact opposite. The workload has been busy but I was able to attend a final dress ceremony celebration which always reminds me why I do this. Why I leave home for months at a time. Because seeing these ladies dressed so beautifully and testifying to God's faithfulness makes it all worth it. Since September about 150 women's health surgeries have been performed. Walking alongside each one of them in their road to physical, spiritual and emotional recovery has been an absolute honor. 

It comes as no surprise but I'll be leaving this place with lots of mixed emotions. Excitement to be home and see all of you but sad to leave these friends, co-workers and patients behind. Its hard knowing I won't see this last group of ladies through until the end of their time on the ship. I can only stand on the truth that God will see these ladies through. He will continue to walk with them. We don't always get to see the completion of our work and as hard as it is I know it is the right time to come home. I will be spending this Christmas on the ship and then leaving the next day to start my travels home. I'll make stops in Kenya and Holland to see friends and relax a bit before finally landing home in New York!

Please continue to pray for the patients and crew members as they spend Christmas here on the ship away from family and friends. I can't thank you all enough for your prayers, cards and support. Being away certainly makes the return home that much sweeter and I truly look forward to it.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!