This week my parents have come to visit me on the Africa Mercy. I was working the evening they arrived but was able to run up to say a BIG hello and help them to their room. I rushed back to work for a while longer before a fellow nurse and friend willingly took the rest of my shift for me. While back at work finishing things off I heard an overhead page for B+ blood donors. I knew Dad was B+ so I called up to their room and heard that Dad was keen to help. He had been called by the Australian Red Cross just before leaving for Africa, asking for a blood donation, but he refused, saving his blood just in case we needed it. After the lab took a full blood count and cross matched him to the patient, we were hurried to the lab for him to give blood, only two hours after arriving onto the ship!
Over the next few days I have introduced them to the hospital we run down on deck 3, ward church on Sundays, eating in the dining room with 400 other people, the constant socialising, coffee at Starbucks, swimming in the wave pool above deck 8 and walking the streets of Freetown. As I walked with them out on the streets I was eager to hear their comments and see with new eyes what has become ‘normal’ to me. Mum’s first thought was how chaotic it was. We were avoiding other people walking, cars, trucks, poda-podas (local transport), okadas (motorbikes) broken down or stopped vehicles, hand pushed carts, wheelchairs and prams carrying frozen yoghurt in cooler boxes, people selling goods carried on their heads, market stalls laid out on the road, broken open drains blocked with garbage and full of putrid water, pot holes, piles of garbage and puddles.
|Hawa & her Mama on admission to the Africa Mercy|
While walking down the street I looked up from where my feet were going to see an African lady coming at me with a very excited face. I realised as she reached forward to hug me that she was the mama of a patient I had cared for the week before. She had her little 2 year old girl, Hawa, who had been my patient, tied on her back, still with bandaged feet. Also with her was another mama and her little boy, John, who had been my patient, also with a bandaged hand and another young lady patient as well. What huge smiles all round! We laughed and hugged like old friends meeting on the street after not seeing each other for years. The children reached for my hands to hold them as we walked along. I asked what they were doing in town and they told me they were going to the market to buy mangoes. We walked along the street a while, Hawa’s mama’s hand in mine.
I bought local food from the street markets or from ladies carrying goods in their heads for Mum and Dad to try. On the way home from roaming the streets I also saw a day volunteer who works in the hospital with me. My fleeting thought was, I feel like a local! I feel right at home in this place!