Looking around my maxillofacial ward over the last few weeks since I arrived I have seen all sorts of things that warm my heart. I would even boast by saying that every day I’ve witnessed something that infused joy into my soul. I will tell you about some of them.
It is hard to explain how it feels to work in my little D ward.
|Back in 2016 Madagascar, but the ward looks the same|
In the photos above you can see what part of the ward space looks like. In my first couple of weeks back on the ship, beds 1-5 were full of male patients. Two of them had stayed longer than expected and when we came for ward rounds one morning, myself, Dr Gary Parker, a physician and translator, a patient named Ali, proudly proclaimed that his new last name was Parker (after Dr Gary). Then the row of males became the Parker brothers. Ali would even sign his colouring pages- Ali Parker.
Ali also helped us translate for a language that only a very few of our day crew translators speak. So instead of the usual two way translation from English to French, it became English to French to Fulfulde using Ali for the last translation. (I always wonder in the last translation what gets said and how much it changes!) So in the morning ward rounds, we’d make our way to the Parker brothers side and Ali would hop out of bed to translate or just lean forward from his own bed and talk across his ‘brothers’. What a gem.
|Ali Parker is to my left|
Sometimes I would look across at these Parkers brothers who all had bandages wrapped around their heads, some of them had nasogastric tubes hanging from their faces, lips dribbling salvia as they recovered from having major maxillofacial surgery. One day I looked over to see two of the men in their 50’s laying in their beds facing each other and giggling. I mean, eyes pinched closed and floppy lips pulled tight as they laughed about their private joke.
The day the Winter Olympics started, one of our Hospital Chaplains walked into the ward to let us know the opening ceremony was on the TV and to change it for the patients. I looked over and saw most of them involved in watching the movie Up (Pixar animation) that was playing. I suggested that perhaps we ask the men on the Parker brothers side whether they would prefer to watch the movie or the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Much to the surprise of the Hospital Chaplain, when he asked the 50 year old man which he would prefer, the patient said, “Cartoons!”
|Alicia and Mama Sabine|
On the other side of the ward we had one of the most beautiful, joyful, bright women I’ve ever cared for (pictured above). She had come to the ship also with a big mandible tumour and had it successfully removed. On the ward the patients are fed post-op with nasogastric (NG) feeds of Ensure supplement for 7 days. On day 8 post-op, the NG comes out and the patient gets to drink the Ensure supplement before being able to start a soft, no rice diet the following day if their inner mouth incisions have healed. It was post-op day 8 for this lady so her NG had been removed and after being given a bottle of Ensure to drink, she bowed her head and said grace over her ‘meal’.
Two other patients in the ward have had one of the most painful procedures for a cleft palate repair called a pharyngoplasty. Dr Gary describes it as the worst sore throat you could ever have. These patients are so brave. This week we had an 18 year old boy have his cleft fixed with this procedure and then a 15 year old boy, Junior, had his fixed with the same procedure the following day. They typically have a morphine infusion for 1-2 days post-op and normally takes several days before they stop hanging their mouth open and pooling saliva. Well the 18 year old progressed quicker than we expected and today when he saw Junior try to take a drink of water, he leaned in and said something to encourage him, because he knows how it feels and he gave Junior a thumbs up. It was such a kind, big brother thing to do.
This week I also sat in a meeting room surrounded by some of the best surgeons, doctors and nurses and hospital ancillary staff I’ve ever met. We discussed a patient who has a condition that is life threatening. The meeting was to decide whether we should do surgery or not. The aim was to discuss the patient’s case from every angle. The most beautiful part about the meeting was looking around the room and knowing that everyone has this patient’s best interest at heart. No one is paid to do their job, so no one has anything to gain except a good outcome for this patient. It felt so pure.
I love all these things and more of the every day events that happen around me each day at work. It is such a blessing.