Welcome to my Mercy Ship Adventure.
Please feel free to read about my journey and post a comment!

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The View from Here

I am so grateful to everyone who is keeping up with the blog and my journey. It means a lot to me that you all are reading. I have had a few requests for some more pictures of my surroundings, view from the ship, etc. So, here you are...

This first picture is of the dock, and the walkway up to the ship. It is our "front porch". Everyone is always coming and going from here.

This picture is the view looking the opposite way from the walkway. In the foreground are our tent clinics. They are an extension of the hospital on the ship. One tent serves as our "admissions" area where people coming to be admitted to the hospital get checked in. The other tent is our eye clinic. We are currently performing about 35 cataract surgeries per day. This tent is where people come after their surgeries to get eye care instructions, and follow up check ups. In the background is a ship that was seized by the government because they found cocaine on board. Rumor has it that millions of dollars of cocaine were found. The ship has been docked for months.

This picture is of me, with Monrovia in the background. This was taken from Deck 7 from the ship.

And this is the view from the front of the ship. We are in one of a few different harbors around the coast of Monrovia.

And this is the view from the back of the ship. This is the first view of the ship that you see as you drive up the dock.

I am working midnight shift this weekend - 7pm until 7am, so I have had a quiet Saturday as I try to sleep to stay up all night. We are also on a "ship holiday". Every few months the ship-workers (except the nurses) get a long weekend. So it is quiet on the ship today. Oh, and as you can see, rainy season hasn't completely taken over. It does rain here, but we still get wonderful warm sunny days too - thank you God!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Darling Boy

Today I am off and I had some plans...but they got cancelled as the true meaning of "rainy season" seems to be making itself clear. Torrential down pouring - no matter how big the umbrella or how good the raincoat. So, a walk to town was out of the question. If not for the rain, then especially for the mud that would surely be everywhere in the streets today. So, instead I enjoyed some indoors relaxation - a book, a movie with friends. Catching up on emails!

This also gives me a chance to catch you up on some of my patients that I have had the absolute privilege to take care of this week. Below is a picture of a boy that has captured my heart. His name is Darling Boy and he lives up to his name in every way. There are many patients with first names that describe them. There was a woman named, "old woman", other common first names for children are "prince" or "princess".

Darling Boy is here getting some wound care for a surgery that Mercy Ships performed on his shoulder. I have had the immense gift of being his nurse the past 2 days. One of the true gifts of being here is that you actually have time to spend with your patients - usually, anyway. So, whenever I had some down time, Darling Boy wanted to play with me. He enjoys blocks and coloring, but his favorite by far has been the math flash cards we have on the ward. That's right - math flash cards! And when those ran out, he wanted me to make up more math problems for him. We worked on addition, subtraction, and eventually some alphabet flash cards too. In between taking care of my other patients, I was a "teacher" too. I loved every minute of it. Even my fourteen year old patient, Fatou, wanted to join in the flash cards. You could tell Fatou had not had much education, she had a very hard time with the flash cards that Darling Boy (who is 6) was breezing through. She kept using her fingers and toes to count, except one foot is in a cast so she had less toes to count with so she used my fingers too.

This next picture is of one of my group of women patients that I call the "Women's Club". For several evening shifts in a row I took care of two women - Bendu and Joanna. Bendu, Joanna, myself, and anyone else that wanted to join in played Uno long into the night. It took a short time but quickly the women caught onto the concept of Uno - and LOVED it when someone forgot to say "uno" and had to pick up a whole pile of cards.

Bendu was badly burned when her mattress that she was sleeping on caught fire from the fire the family uses to cook and keep warm with. She was burned in March of this year, and she is here for skin grafting.

This next patient is Joanna and her daughter Angela. Joanna is also here for some skin grafting. Mercy Ships does a lot of repairing peoples wounds that haven't healed properly because they were never treated when the wound first occurred, or things that were "fixed" years ago in the local hospitals. There is a lot of cosmetic surgery to correct skin and bone issues.

The last 2 days I also took care of this man. He had a tumor removed from his back. I love this man and his beautiful smile.

This last picture is a group photo of some of the patients. The hospital ward is located on the third deck where there are no windows. So, every day we take the patients that can walk, outside for fresh air. This was during our "deck" time. The patients love to go outside, and it provides us a chance to just be with our patients. We sit and talk, share stories, play games with the children. It is a great way to spend an hour of your shift.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bong Mine

Sorry again that it has been a few days since updating everyone. We have begun our one month trial of 12 hour shifts, so the last few days I haven't done much other than work. This past weekend however, I did have the chance to go on a tour of sorts to the Bong Mine.

There is a man that volunteers with Mercy Ships that lives here in Monrovia that takes people on a tour of a place out in the country-side here called the Bong Mine. It is located in Bong County and it is an old iron ore mine that was abandoned once the civil war broke out. The man that leads the tour is named Odacious and he used to work at the mine. It doesn't sound like much - to tour an abandoned mine - but it is a fun day out to the country-side and a great way to see some of the roads less traveled in Liberia.

For starters the trip begins by piling into land rovers and then driving them onto a flat-bed railway car. We parked the land rovers on top of this rail car and then road the "train" of land rovers out into the country. There were some amazing sites and beautiful scenery along the way.

Perhaps the most fun was the train ride. You are allowed to get out of the land rovers and sit on the top of the land rover or sit on the hood while the train is moving. The space between the land rover and the edge of the platform isn't very big, so you have to be careful to hold on or you could fall off the train.

It was a really great day, but a long one. The train ride itself is over 3 hours one way, and then you are out in the country for several hours. It is a pack your lunch kind of adventure and no "proper" bathroom facilities.

The last stop on the tour was a local "hospital". It was really cool to see a village hospital. The hospital has electricity only some of the time. When we toured, we went through the lab area where there were workers working in almost total darkness. Below are a few pictures of the hospital. All of the hospital beds have mosquito nets attached to prevent Malaria. There are a couple of pictures of signs that hang in the hallways of the hospital. "Community Health" messages encouraging mothers to breast feed, and another sign showing how to decrease a baby's fever.

I think my absolute favorite part of the trip out to the country was to see the villages. We got to see some amazing parts of Africa, and see some village life. The best part was when the train would come through some of the villages the children would come running out of the woodwork it seemed just to wave and scream and laugh and greet us. Lots of adults too would look and wave and smile.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sunset at White Sands Beach

Yesterday we had one of our very frequent fire drills. Seven very loud beeping noises invades every cabin, every space of the ship and it is time to head off the ship to the dock to your designated "muster" station. As my friends and I were sitting on the dock waiting for our all clear to go back to the ship, we got the great idea to head to the beach for the sunset. We packed our dinner and headed out to White Sands Beach.

Instead of begging seagulls on the beaches at home, here in Africa it is begging stray dogs...

Mamba Point Hotel

Last Saturday Kat, Wendy, Stephanie, Sam and I went to the nicest hotel in Monrovia - the Mamba Point, for lunch. Wendy's dad is visiting the ship for the next 10 days as a special guest engineer to consult on issues of paint and rust. For a few days Wendy and her dad are going to hopefully stay at the Mamba Point Hotel and they have graciously invited Kat and I. So, we went there for lunch and to try to make a reservation for Wendy. Below are some of the pictures from the balcony where we ate lunch overlooking the ocean.

And just for fun, below is a picture of Kat in a very common African dress. She would kill me if she knew I was posting this on the blog.The dress she is wearing was made at the tailor. Of course we had to add the pillows to her head- as that is a very common thing on the streets of Monrovia. Not to carry pillows on your head, but anything that you are carrying - women will carry it on their heads - baskets, bags, buckets of fruit, etc.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Along the road...

Well, I am sorry I haven't blogged at all in the last few days. I was just starting to wonder if anyone was reading this anyway - and boy was I wrong! Three people have emailed me to tell me to get posting! Sorry!!! I have been working quite a bit. We are experiencing a lot of transition here. A few of the doctors that have been here since the beginning of the outreach (February)are heading home, or at least heading to a well deserved break. Many nurses that have been here since February are going home, and many that are here for 2 years are reaching the half way point and are getting to go home for a few weeks too. So, those of us that are here now are providing the much needed relief to so many nurses that have been so giving. We are also switching all of the shifts to 12 hours, so I will work longer days but hopefully with less days to work. It all depends on how many people show up for their scheduled surgeries and how many nurses we have.

Today I took a walk by myself just to try to get away and think. On a ship of 400+ people and living in a cabin of 6 people there isn't much one can do to get away and think. I headed down the dock to the road - the only place we are allowed to go by ourselves. The road is guarded by UN soldiers and gated off from the city. It isn't long, but it is all we have for a "yard" so to speak - a place to stretch our legs. I really wanted some time to think, and some time to be with God. I have been here for over 3 weeks now and I feel very settled in. God has brought me some great friends and I meet more and more people everyday. So much so that it is hard to get time alone. So I headed out for a walk, to be with God and think about all that is happening here.

I didn't get very far in my walk when I ran into one of my recent patients. I didn't even realize that he had been discharged home. Today he was walking up the road to the ship to go for a follow up appointment. I almost didn't recognize him he was so happy. The smile on his face was wider than the ocean. His name is Junior and he is a 27 year old that came to the ship for help with some sores on his back. When we lifted up Junior's shirt, he had several growths known as keloids. They are growths of scar tissue that formed big lumps on his skin. They resulted from him being marked with tribal markings all down his back and sides. The surgeon on the ship was able to remove the scar tissue from Junior's back, but now Junior has an open wound that we are still caring for daily. Junior hugged me and thanked me for caring for him these last several weeks and then continued on down the road.

A few minutes later coming the other direction was another family that had been my patient. A little baby that was here for a cleft lip repair and was now going home. The family stopped and hugged me and thanked me over and over again.

I was talking with a friend last night and she asked me what was the best thing about being here so far. I have to say the best thing is the patients. This trip has caused me to remember that I do love being a nurse. I love to take care of people, comfort them, encourage them on the bad days. The people here are SO grateful. I am amazed at their strength, their courage, their ability to have horendous things happen to them and they don't have a chip on their shoulder. They are resilient, they are filled with gratitude for the help they have received. They are hopeful people.

Liberia is recovering from a civil war that ended in 2003. All of my patients have lived through war and are still recovering, have the memories fresh in their mind. I cannot even begin to imagine all that they have endured. Not only that, but most of the patients being treated by Mercy Ships are here because they have some disfiguring growth or tumor that needs to be removed. Most of the time these people are social outcasts because of this. I have one patient named Friend that had a wound on his back. He told me he was kicked out of his village because of this and for years was taken care of by missionaries. He is here at Mercy Ships to finally get the skin graft to cover his wound on his back and have it heal into a normal looking back.

I took a walk down the road to get some time alone with God. Instead, God showed up in the faces of some amazing Liberian people. People with open hearts, filled with gratitude, hopeful for a fresh start. I could not be more grateful to God that He allowed me to be here. That He made a way for me to be a part of the work that He is doing in Liberia...to bring hope and healing in so many ways physically, emotionally, spiritually.

I hope to have more pictures of patients coming. It is a delicate thing to get pictures of the patients. We are restricted as to when and where we can photograph them. I would love to introduce you to some of the many beautiful people here so I will try.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mercy Friends

Here are a few pictures of some of the great friends God has brought me so far on the ship.

This is the infamous trio. Kat from England is on the left and Wendy from Texas is on the right. The three of us are almost always together. I met Wendy at the Liberia airport and Kat is Wendy's bunk-mate. We all arrived within 2 days of each other so we have become quick friends as we get the hang of life on a ship and life in Africa.
This is a picture of my friend Jeanne. She is from Texas also, and she and our other friend Becky have a little breakfast club they have invited me to be a part of. Once a week we make breakfast together. Jeanne and Becky are really good cooks and really good at making something amazing out of almost nothing. I of course contributed juice from the ship shop :)
This is Jeanne, Becky in the middle, and another friend Jodi on the left. I met Jodi through my blog before I got here and emailed her a few times. She is also from Michigan and lives in the cabin next door to me.
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Monday, June 9, 2008

The Perfect Day

This past Sunday I had one of the most perfect days ever. I started the day off by attending my first African church service. I attended a little church called Bethel and it was amazing. The pastor's name was Josephine and she preached the best sermon I have ever heard on Jacob and Esau. There was a lot of singing and dancing - my favorite. It was hot, but it was worth the sweating. After the sermon it was time to come up to the front with your offering. It was kind of like a line for communion would be at home, except in this line most people were dancing or at least swinging their hips a bit or bending their knees to the music. It was a little more like a conga line and a little less like a line of people heading to the front to give their offerings. Then there were women who broke out their whistles and just started blowing on them that just added to the joyful noise. It was a really great time of worship. There was a banner for their youth group hanging on the wall that read "destined to change a generation". What a great motto!

The second half of my day was spent at the beach. This was a heavenly little piece of Monrovia. Most of the time when I talk about Monrovia, it is not so heavenly - but the beach most definitely was. There is a nice piece of beach that even has a little outdoor building that served food and drinks. My friends and I sat at a beach side table with an umbrella made of palm leaves. Somehow the entire afternoon turned into evening and it was time to head back to the ship. Now I see why most everyone goes to the beach on the weekend. Mostly the only people at the beaches are Mercy Ship workers, UN workers and Doctors Without Boarders workers.

I will post some pictures tomorrow. The internet connection isn't working so great here so once again I am having technical difficulty.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Africa Mercy Youth Group

Meet some of the young boys on the ward...I call them the Africa Mercy Youth Group. These are the boys that I spend time playing Uno with.

Meet Emanual, he is 14 years old and here for surgery to his leg. He rarely has any visitors and no family stays with him while here. He has teamed up with another boy Alfred, and they seem to be inseparable. Emanual has a heart of gold. Every night that I have cared for him he has asked me to come over to his bed and pray for him before he goes to sleep. Then, in the morning he gets up, comes over to me on his crutches and thanks me for taking care of him.

And this is Alfred. Infamous Alfred. He is the ring leader of the ward that he stays on. He is a ham and tends to steal the show. He is very quick witted and tends to get his followers into trouble at times. Him and Emanuel are good buddies and they hobble around on their crutches visiting each ward. Currently Afred has launched a scheme to write and produce a play with other patients as his actors and actresses to put on a show for the nurses and doctors to thank them for their help.

The boys are wearing paper "crowns" in the pictures. They had just finished watching the Chronicles of Narnia and the craft was to make the crowns.

I am finishing my last of three evening shifts tonight. Then I am off this weekend and am looking forward to investigating Monrovia more. Plans are to go to the beach and to African church.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008



This is a picture of me and the Third Mate, Joe that I met in the airport in Brussels. He is here for 3 1/2 weeks and will return to Texas to work on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Ok, so I am new at posting pictures!!!

Just a quick disclaimer - this is the first time I am posting pictures on the blog and I do not have my web-mistress Tracy at my side to assist me. So, I am sorry these pictures below all ended up in single posts.
It has been just over a week since arriving and I am starting to feel like and old-timer here. Once you have your first week under belt, you graduate to veteran as new people are arriving almost daily.
This past weekend I worked 12 hour night shift. It has been awhile since I have stayed up all night, but since we all know I am naturally a night person I had no problem. Actually it was the patients in the ward that I had the privilege of serving that made it so easy. I have never been a pediatric nurse but this weekend I plunged into it sink or swim. I have to say I loved every minute of it. Once I made rounds and got everyone settled for the night I got to spend several hours with a few of the teenage boy patients playing round after round of Uno. Then I had a 5 year old boy that had trouble sleeping through the night so I got to rock him to sleep and hold him in my arms for several hours each night. There were also a few adult patients on the ward who joined in with the Uno as well. My best friend from home made me a scrapbook of pictures of family and friends from home so I brought that to show the patients as well. They seem to love looking at pictures so they looked over the book several times, asking questions of who was who. They were very interested in the fishing boat in the pictures and I told them that was my favorite place to be! They all think I have my father's smile.
Most of the patients I took care of over the weekend are here for ortho related issues. They either were born with club feet, or had a fracture that never healed properly and are here to have the bones reset. Many are learning to walk with crutches for the first time and will be on them until they return in a few weeks for follow-up appointments.
One of the nicest things about the patients so far is their gratitude. When the shift is over many patients will come up to you and thank you for taking care of them, for serving them. Even the teenage boys came to thank me before I left in the morning. All of you nurse friends know how energizing it is to have grateful patients.
Today I will try to take some pictures of these beautiful African friends and patients of mine. We are restricted as to when and where we can photograph patients so it is not always easy to do. However, I have to get some pictures so you can see what amazing and beautiful people they are.
I have to say since I have been here I have loved nearly everything about this adventure thus far. I know it is a bit naive to say, since it has just been one week, but I am loving this and am so happy. I just want to thank you all again for supporting me, loving me, encouraging me. I thank God that He would even consider me and allow me to join Him and everyone else that is serving on the Africa Mercy.

Cabin Pics



These are pictures of my cabin. Some of my friends here are jealous. Apparently my cabin has a wider hallway area than most. Also, I have had the guilty pleasure of having my litle berth area to myself for almost the entire time I have been here so far. That is about to change, tomorrow I will get a new bunk-mate.
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more pics

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This is a picture of the "driveway" located on the dock. Mercy Ships has several land rover vehicles they use for their land based operations. Every day teams go out and dig wells and various other construction projects. Also, the community health clinics and dental teams use these vehicles. Also, on weekends drivers can sign the vehicles out and take people like me to church...or the beach - usually it's both in one day.
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