Thursday, October 29, 2015

Healing bones, healing hearts, healing futures

Two work posts in a row! Whoa, watch out!
I know I haven't written much about the details of what I do at work. But I really wanted to share some new things that are happening so all of you out there can be praying for some very special patients that will walk through our doors soon. 
Up to this point in the field service, I have been primarily working with plastic/reconstructive surgery patients and a few general surgeries. It has been lots of fun to see the transformation in each patient and I've learned so much! However, next week we will change our focus to orthopedic surgery. I've been looking forward to this for a while after hearing other nurses talk about how exciting it is to care for these patients and see the dramatic results, and I'm so happy they will be coming to A Ward where I work! We will see all kinds of orthopedic problems such as club feet and bowed legs. 

Here are a few of the incredible patients from last year: 

Even more exciting, I had the opportunity this week to take part in Orthopedics Evaluation Day. We invited each of the patients from last year to come back to see how they are getting along. My job was to ask a list of questions about if they are happy with their results and the difference it's made in their daily life. They also met with physical therapy and the Orthopedic surgeon to make sure they were healing properly.
Many of the patients seen in the video came back to visit and you would hardly know they just had major surgery about 1 year ago. They were running around playing, riding toy cars and getting into trouble just like any small child should. In talking with the parents, so many were overjoyed with the difference these surgeries have made in their children's lives. They could not say thank you enough and were excited to tell how their child can go to school and play with the other kids instead of feeling left out or unable to keep up. 
Taking part in this follow up day only increased my excitement for the new patients coming next week! Each of them is loved and important and deserves to live their life free from the shame and disability that these conditions bring.

Just a little bone humor for you :)

Orthopedics prayer requests:
~ Minimal pain after surgery
~ Bones to heal quick and strong
~ Patience and distraction for many small children who will be on bedrest and with limited mobility for some time
~ No infections post-op (a bone infection can be a death sentence in a place where there is no long term treatments available
~ Good rehab (can take months of frequent physical therapy to recover function)
~ (and a personal request) Confidence as I transition into being a charge nurse...when I feel like I don't know enough to answer all the questions yet!

Monday, October 12, 2015

I really do work in a hospital, I promise!

A lot of people on the Africa Mercy (and some at home) get the impression that us ward nurses never work. I do see how it can often look that way, especially to others who work every day 8-5 type jobs...and to those at home who only see pictures and stories of the fun activities I've been able to take part in since arriving in Madagascar. For a few weeks, it actually was kind of true. Since it's easier to train a whole group of new people at once in the beginning, a group of about 60 nurses came to open the hospital in September. But because of how our system works, we can only bring in about 10 new patients each day. That meant that for the first 1-2 weeks, the hospital was only partially full and slowly filling. Since I am here for 10 months and some others are only here for 2 or 3 months, they let those shorter stay nurses work first. I didn't actually start working until the 2nd week the hospital was open! This was hard for me to justify, since all my previous overseas trips were short and busy. They had us running from dawn till dusk every day we were there. I had to keep reminding myself that those trips were like a sprint and this whole year will be a marathon. It won't help anything to wear out in the beginning and be useless at the end.

It can also look like I have a lot of time off because we work 8 hour shifts, five times a week. So I may randomly have a Tuesday off, but it's probably because I worked all weekend. Or I can sleep in late and skip breakfast, but that's because I work evenings and don't go in until 2pm. After working 12 hour shifts for the past few years, I expected to hate 8 hour shifts and having to work 5 days a week again. Surprisingly, I've actually come to like it in a lot of ways. 8 hours flies by very quickly and it's nice to have a few hours off before or after work to get things done or have a social life. And 8 hours of night shift is not nearly as daunting as 12!

See look, I really do work!
This was taken before my second shift at work a couple of weeks ago.

All that is to say, I promise I have been working and it's been great! However, I don't talk about it a lot because it's harder to describe and not as interesting to share. It's really easy to write a whole story on how I spent my weekend or post a picture of what I had for dinner in town...but it can honestly be really hard to put into words how a patient's smile touched my heart or the joy of mother seeing her baby without a cleft lip anymore. We also have restrictions on how much information we can put out to the public and we aren't allowed to take pictures of patients (and what's a good blog without pictures!). I can only put pictures that the media team takes and puts on our share drive as public. So I will occasionally try to share about work and the surgeries we are doing here; and I will try sometimes to push past the superficial to dig deeper into the emotional side because there are some really great stories being shared. But know if you don't see as much of that, these are the reasons why and it's not because the work going on is not's more that the healing happening on is so great I feel unworthy to put it into words.

I do have one small story to share. This is one of the first little boys I took care of in the hospital:

He had a cyst on the side of his abdomen that had been growing for several years. The surgeon said it was about the size of his head. Imagine walking around with something that big hanging off of you for years! Especially a little boy who loves to run around and play with balls and chase his friends. But through all of this, he kept his sweet little smile. Just one look at his bed from across the room and he would give that big grin or sometimes a little shy smirk. Just too cute! And he was so brave with the pain and medicine and dressing changes. During the first few weeks when most our patients were adults, this little guy brought laughter and brightness to our ward, and you couldn't help but fall in love with him! (and that big hat hung on the wall behind his bed the whole time!)

And if that wasn't enough, his caregiver was his Grandpa. I love watching the male interaction with children here in Madagascar. They are so sweet, loving and caring with their children or grandchildren. It's beautiful to watch. We joked that this Grandpa was the overseer of the ward. He was always watching everything happening and would occasionally walk around making sure all was well. Welcome to village life here on the wards of the Africa Mercy. After this pair had been here about a week, we found out their story. Grandpa was in his 80s and the two live on the other side of the island of Madagascar. They walked for several days to a bus station and rode a bus for a few more days to get to the city where the ship is located. Nearly a week of travel each way for the opportunity to have this life-changing surgery!

This is just one of many stories of hope and healing happening every day on this ship. Each patient is on their own unique journey and I wish I could tell you all of them. Some would break your heart and some would make you smile, but all are stories of people that God loves and we have the incredible privilege of sharing that love with each one.

Thank you for making this possible and continue to pray for each of those stories that are still being written. We've had a bit of a rough stretch on the ship the past few weeks. It started with several busy and unexpected ICU patients that kept the whole hospital on it's toes. Then there was a annoying cold/sinus bug that went around. And now we are struggling with "the plague" (a very contagious GI bug that currently has about 10% of the crew sick). Everyone has been working overtime for those who are sick and cleaning everything in sight to get rid of the germs! Your prayers would be greatly appreciated. So far I've avoided the worst of the plague, but I did suffer through the cold last week which was more a nuisance than a real sickness thankfully. We think we're on the tail end of it all, but there are still many recovering and I'm sure the whole ship is ready for it to be over for good!