Rainy season is finally coming to an end and the sun is shining brightly again, much to my delight! There are only 8 weeks left in the outreach for the Africa Mercy in Freetown, Sierra Leone. We are still running strong with several specialties going on: maxillofacial surgeries, general and plastic surgeries.
Plastic surgery here on the ship is very different to plastic surgery in a western country. Here on the ship, and in West Africa, our patients have much different needs. Most of the patients I look after have had horrible burns causing skin contractures like these patients pictured below.
Each of them, and many more have had skin grafting to release the contractures to bring back the use of their eyelid, neck, arm and hand. The photos may be shocking to you, but this is reality here. The best thing is that we are able to help them and bring back so much function that they have lost. There is a lot of work and nursing care involved in caring for plastics patients. They have dressing changes every second day and when there are more than 30 patients on the ward, it makes for a very busy day! We have pleaded with God for no infections in skin graft or donor sites and for quick healing for these patients, as some patients we had at the first plastic surgery stint at the beginning of the year stayed on the ship a long time (135 days)! And God has been faithful and answering so many prayers for us!
With the patients staying on the ward for so many days as we wait for their wounds to heal, we bond quickly and enjoy many laughs and sometimes tears together. I wish I could fill this newsletter just with photos so you can see the fun we have together.
This year I have enjoyed the native language being so close to English that it is quite easy to communicate with the patients and have one-on-one chats. During a massive dressing change a week ago, on a patient who had been badly burnt as a baby, she told me in Krio with some English, that she had lived over the years with so much pain. This lady doesn’t have hands. Somehow when she was a baby with the burns, her hands had contracted back to her wrists, leaving the ends of her arms as if her hands had been cut off. Even though she expressed such emotional pain during that particular dressing change, she was so brave and never shed a tear. I have loved watching her interact with other patients and when the youth group came down to the wards last week and the girls performed a dance, she sat on her bed with the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen, innocently spread across her face. It made my heart melt. She is also married and has a 12 month old son, who is gorgeous of course! What an amazing mama!
With the outreach in Freetown running to a close, my group of friends and I are quickly trying to do all the things we have wanted to do before we leave the country. There are beaches to go to once again (now that it doesn’t rain every day!), visiting a few places here and there and I’m pulling out my camera once again, which seems to have gotten a little dusty over the last few months.
More and more friends leave as the outreach comes to an end, but thankfully my closest friends are mostly also staying at least two years with me. I’m so thankful for the group of people that God has given me to be my family here.