Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This title summarizes my favorite place on the Africa Mercy because it's where the people are.  It's where the patients are, it's where you get to be a part and see up front how people's lives are being changed.

Imagine the basement of a ship.  Imagine one ward, broken into two by one wall in the middle.  Imagine nurses passing between the two areas.. Watch them taking vital signs. Sitting on stools next to the bed making notes in the charts, amidst chatting with patients and their 'caregiver'.  Each patient is allowed one 'caregiver' to stay with them while they're here.  They literally sleep underneath of their beds.  We put raised blocks under the bed posts, and thin mattresses rest beneath where the children's mother and possibly young sibling will stay. 
Sometimes health issues come up with the family member so we add a page in the chart for them too.  Although, basic medical problems is not our focus, we'll deal with obvious stuff while they're here.  Little "Jojo" sibling of a plastics pediatric patient, has been needing some TLC this week, but appears to b eon the mend.  He had his first birthday while here on the Mercy Ship with his big brother Abel.

Imagine 10 am rolls around, and the "Patient Life Team" show up on the wards.  These are local people who are involved in ministering to the needs of the patients in a spiritual way.  They are an amazing group of folks.  They come into the ward and everyone brightens up including the nurses.  I often feel like they're there to minister to my needs too.  I seem to have developed somewhat of a despise for formal religious stuff lately, so having these guys come in and be so real and genuine with all of us is refreshing.  They don't see just the patients as the ones they look after, it seems like they generally care for us to. They will often translate or stop to have conversations with us.  They are around all day for different things, whether it's holding a limb during a dressing change or praying/comforting someone who is in tears from pain.  But at their 10 am morning round, they stop in each ward for a good 1/2 hr with music; guitars and drums sometimes, and sing... getting all the patients and family involved.  I've seen the patients and families who barely knew the words in the beginning now singing out with every song, up off their beds clapping along.  My favorite is one 20 something year old guy who often breaks into impromptu words, adding words of praising God to the tune that they were singing.  He has a very full heart.  His faith story is pretty interesting too, maybe I'll get a chance to write it out here at some point. 
Continue imagining, 2:30 in the afternoon, all the patients who are able to (ie. those who have had their first dressing change after about day 7) hike up 4 or 5 flights of stairs to get to "Deck 7" where they enjoy the "fresh" (humid, hot) air for about an hour.  One of the "patient life" team members is usually up playing the guitar, so there is singing and dancing, or else there is just children riding the tricycles back and forth with siblings and friends straggling off the edges; which is clearly why they are not allowed out there until a good week following surgery...!

If you can continue picturing the evening, family members come for 'visiting hours'.  Escorted by our 'day workers' down to the ward, the place fills up with extra people for quite some time.  It's nice to see them interacting with family, and get acquainted with more of their family members.  I was gonna say that's such a neat time, but every time that I've described today is actually a good time on the ward.  Ok, so maybe I'm still 'honeymooning' perhaps one day soon it will turn into more of a job. 
It is still work.  We have lots of pain medications, and circulatory assessments to do. But right now those are just constant excuses to interact with the people! : )

Interesting names in Togo: Ramziatou (18 yr old girl), Akunamatata (he tells me it's his real name, he's from Kenya), Mokpokbo (girl), Yaouwi (male), etc, etc.  I'll try to keep throwing some more of these out there as I find names fascinating. Especially now that we're in a French speaking culture.

Ewe is the local dialect as well, although I haven't been picking up much of that. Some of the others are doing quite well tho.  Ak-bay-ka-ka = thank you! That's the only one that's sticking.  Thanks to Andrew for teaching me Ewe ; )

I hope I get a chance to tell you soon about my other favorite place... "The Hope Centre".. next time tho... next time...

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