Saturday, December 17, 2016

If you're happy and you know it..."

A few weekends ago I went out to deck 7 during the patients outside time (all patients who are able are encouraged to go outside from 2:30-3:30pm every day). We have had quite a lot of orthopedic kids recently (the children with bowed legs).

 I knew that a lot of them wouldn’t be able to get down on the ground to play with my little cars or blocks that I sometimes bring out, so I brought out my dot paints, along with little boards that the kiddos could put on top of their full leg casts and lean on to play with the dot paints. They were a big hit and fairly soon the kids moved from dot painting the paper to dot paining their full leg casts!

            The littles sit in their plastic chairs and rest their feet on another plastic chair and generally can’t do very much in terms of playing, so the nurses do a great job entertaining them! I’ve seen whole rows of nurses standing in front of twelve “ortho” patients singing every song they can think of to keep the kids happy. My favorite was singing “If you’re happy and you know it” with the nurses. The kids don’t understand English, but they can tell what motion they are supposed to do. The best part was the verse “If you’re happy and you know it stomp your feet” because these kids obviously can’t do that, so we changed the words to “wiggle your toes.” I wish everyone had the chance to see these kiddos, each with two full leg casts happy and giggling and wiggling their little toes that poke out of each end of the casts!

            Yesterday I brought the kindergartners and first graders (surprise! I have both grades for two weeks and my class has ballooned from 3 to a whopping seven!) out to play with the ortho patients and we had a grand time. My littles passed out boards and papers and dot paints to the little patients and then monitored who needed to switch colors and who needed more paper and such. We were hot and happy! :0)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Perfect Storm

On Friday evening, just as we were finishing up our ladies retreat for the weekend, an announcement came on the overhead throughout the ship and asked all emergency teams to report down to OR 3. The women in the retreat who are a part of the emergency medical teams leapt up and ran out of that room leaving the rest of us rattled and quite concerned. After a few minutes, the overhead speaker blared once again, this time asking anyone with blood type B+ to get down to the lab immediately. On the ship, the crew supplies the blood bank for all surgeries. We knew for sure at that point that something was horribly wrong. Someone was downstairs in the hospital and in desperate need of blood. Several minutes later they came back on the overhead and asked everyone onboard to stop whatever they were doing and pray for the patient in OR 3. I was so glad that so many of the women of the Africa Mercy were still together after our evening retreat. It was a surreal and rattling experience to be sitting upstairs and knowing that a patient downstairs was actively dying as we sat there. We prayed together and sat together and I cried quite a bit. There was nothing we could do but wait. They came over the intercom to name certain people they knew had the correct blood type to come down to the lab immediately and I shakily walked down to my cabin to get ready for bed. As I was about to go to sleep they came on the overhead for the last time that evening and said that the patient in OR 3 was stable, but in critical condition. The next day we found out that he made it through the night. That following day at the ladies retreat one of the anesthesiologists who had been in OR 3 the previous night told us that as everything went south so fast, she just kept thinking, “No! Why is this happening on my watch?!?” and she distinctly heard God tell her, “This isn’t your watch, it’s MY watch.” She said she could tangibly feel the prayers coming from every corner of the ship towards OR 3. What a scary evening, but what a privilege to be here among these people and with our great God to plead for miracles and for life.

*Update: This patient is now out of ICU and doing well! Praise the Lord! People have been referring to this incident as "the perfect storm" because of the horrific-ness of what happened (can't share too many details, but it's truly a miracle that this man is alive today) coupled with several other complications that happened at the same time, but still having exactly the right people here who knew what to do and a perfect God who has power over all.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

No Pictures on Purpose...

*I never put up posts with no photos, but there's a reason for this photo can truly capture the spark of God in humanity...

so I'll try with my words...

I walked into church this morning in the wards and passed a boy with most of his head wrapped in gauze, a little girl missing an ear, so many precious kiddos with their arms propped in braces that hold their arms at a ninety-degree angle from their bodies, and I sat down between two men with various amounts of dressings and stitches and IV tubes coming out of their arms. Before actually coming to the ship, I remember seeing so many pictures and watching so many video clips about Mercy Ships and having to turn my eyes away at times because the disfiguration of some of the patients is just so hard to look at, but you know what I’ve discovered here? In person, I’ve never felt the need to turn my face away when I go down to the wards. I look around and see complete and beautiful humanity. I find that I want to look at them and smile at them and shake their hands because no matter how much of them is covered in dressings and no matter how many fingers have metal wires coming straight out of them, and no matter what disfiguration they have, they are so clearly precious humans created in the image of God. It’s impossible not to see that spark of God in them and I think that that must be God taking my eyes and showing me what He sees, which is very exciting and also very humbling.
We sing worship songs together, some in languages we know and some in French and some in Fon and everyone does what they can to worship. Some stand and the many who can’t stand sit. Some clap and some, like the man sitting next to me today, just touch his gauze wrapped hand to his other hand in the motion of clapping but making no noise…because that’s what he can offer. We were told at one point in the service to give a clap offering to God and I couldn’t help but think that his silent “clapping” of his wrapped hands together must have made a beautiful noise in the ears of the Father.
Today we talked though the story of the Good Samaritan. Our Ward Chaplain told the story, which was then translated and then we were instructed to retell the story to those around us. Those around me didn’t speak the same language as I do so I acted the story out as best I could with my fingers pretending to walk along the road, etc. to the confused smiles of those around me. It’s a story that I’ve heard so many times, but as we talked through that story today, surrounded by so many who look rather beaten down like the man in the story, I wondered if we aren’t doing the same as the priest and the Levite. When we see or hear or know about others in need around us and finish seeing the news clip or finish reading the article, and go back to whatever it was we were doing, are we not choosing to walk by those who could use our help? That’s a big and scary question to me because I don’t want to do that. I don’t want be like the Priest and Levite who looked and then chose to keep walking. I want to choose to help, but it’s overwhelming because there are so many in need of help. I suppose the Samaritan didn’t have to help every person that day, he just chose to stop and help the one that God literally put in his path. Then it becomes less overwhelming. I don’t have the answers to this thought about how to love our neighbors, but it’s something I need to think more about.
I am privileged to work on a ship full of people that are choosing to see those beaten down around us and not just walk by, but to do something about it. I think we can all make that choice. Before I came here, when I told my littles in CA about the people that the doctors on this ship help, I remember trying to find video clips to show them of the patients and looking through clip after clip and deciding not to show them most of the clips because frankly they had disturbing images of patients with tumors that have taken over their faces and I didn’t want to scare my littles. I don’t regret that choice because I do think there’s a time and place and age for people to be exposed to certain realities, but you know what I wish now? I wish I could bring some of the patients into my classroom of kinders from last year so they could see these beautiful people in real life, because pictures and videos can look disturbing and scary, but  actually seeing past the deformity or tumor to the spark of God within is so different and so wonderful. I wish I could share that with them. My kindergartners onboard don’t have that choice of turning away from the TV screen because they live here and they see these patients in reality. And yes, when we walk down to the hospital together or walk out to deck 7 where the patients are getting fresh air so we can play with them, my girls cling pretty closely to me because it is a little scary sometimes for those of us who aren’t used to being amongst all the hospital gowns and tubes and dressings, but I know that it’s scary for those patients who aren’t used to those things as well. I think it’s a wonderfully unifying things for the patients and the kindergartners and me to know that none of us probably feel totally at ease, but that we’re in this thing called life together and God is taking good care of us all.

At the end of the church service we all file out, some to go back to their hospital beds and others of us off to call home and read or rest, but no matter what we’re doing next, the walk out is one of my favorite parts. It’s a slow meandering down the hospital corridor because there are so many in wheel chairs or on crutches in front of me and I get to just walk slowly among them and smile and think and praise God for this hard and wonderful place He has given me to be today.