Sunday, 26 February 2012


The hospital is up and running!  We've had 3 weeks of surgery already and the hospital is filling up quickly.
This year I moved to work in D ward which houses maxilla facial (maxfax) surgical patients.  This ward is often the busiest in the hospital as we have a long term doctor, Dr Gary Parker, operating for the whole field service.  We have also had several other maxilla facial surgeons come and more coming later this field service, which means sometimes we have two or even three operating rooms going just for maxfax patients!
One of the things I love about working in maxfax is the huge change in the patient's appearance.  I love see them staring in the mirror at the change in their face, at their new nose, at the place the tumour has disappeared, at the cleft that has been closed in their lip.

This little girl’s name is Wapondi.  She had a cleft lip and palate repair about two weeks ago.  She struggled post-operatively trying to breathe with a whiteheads pack in the roof of her mouth closing the hole that had previously been so large.  She had a tube in her nose to open her airway and a pack in the other side to shape her nose correctly while it healed.  She was miserable the days after her operation and our attempts to love on her failed as she didn't want to be comforted by the nurses who were causing her pain.
Two days post-op, we pulled out the tube from her nose and put a feeding tube down, to help her put weight on as she was refusing to eat.
Day 5 post-op, the whiteheads pack came out of her mouth, the nasal bolster came out of her nose and having those airways open, she began to be interested in drinking her milk.

I came into work that afternoon and I went over to her bed and offered to pick her up.  She lifted up those little arms and I carried her around for an hour or so.  She helped me with the restocking and cleaning.  I was helping a nurse out at the same time, adding a small cup of water to a nasogastric feed to finish it.  I filled my little cup with water and Wapondi, in my arms, reached forward to hold it.  I walked to the cupboard and gave her her own little cup to hold.  She reached out to the water to fill it.  As i filled it and gave it back to her, she lifted it up to her mouth with her tiny little hand and drank the water down and reached out for more.  I filled up that water cup 4 more times and each time she lifted it up to her mouth and drank.
There were a few nurses surrounding me during this procedure, seeing the whole thing.  We were all exclaiming over how adorable she was and how happy it made our hearts to see her healing and happy.

The best part about this little story was that at the beginning of the shift when we met to pray together before doing any work, I had encouraged us all to look for little moments of God’s presence in our work.  I look for these moments every day, whether it’s a smile from a patient who is having a hard time, seeing a mother enveloped in the love she feels for her baby, or just holding a precious child of God who wants to drink water from a tiny medicine cup like the grown-ups.  Moments like this, touch the very bottom of my soul, reminding me of God’s greatness and his ability to touch me and speak to my heart through everyday life.  He wants to walk with me and speak to me and when I invite him to join me, he never fails to speak as we walk together.

Will you ask him to join you in your walk today?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

What a Team!

Surgery has started for our Togo 2012 outreach!  Each of the new nurses are beginning to have their first shifts in the ward, with real patients and some serious surgeries.  It is so lovely to watch their hearts melt when they see the precious babies with their lips taped together like cat whiskers, after a cleft lip repair, to see their compassion for the patients waiting anxiously for their surgery and to be hands on caring from patients back from surgery with nasogastric tubes for feeding, bandaged heads, drains and IV fluids.  It makes me feel warm all over to see the love poured out upon these people who have entered so deeply into my heart!

Here is a glimpse of the team:

The whole team
The ward nurses
A group of us loving how high waisted our scrub pants were made

We were a little worried we would be squashed by the T-Rex machine that moves the containers around the port, while we were waiting for these photos to be taken.
The port in Lome where we are docked this very minute!

I'm so excited about the fun we will have this year!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Screening Day

Screening day began at 3:45am for me.  Breakfast was served from 3:30am and I was up there by 4am getting a small bite to eat before meeting some of my team and my driver in the cafe area of the ship.  We excitedly left the ship by 4:30am in a convoy of Landrovers, driving through the silent streets.  There was some chatter in my Landrover, but I knew most of the nurses minds were dwelling on the possibilities of what the day would bring.  Most of them had never been at a screening day before or even worked in the hospital on the M/V Africa Mercy.  My only experience of a screening day was the first blog I ever posted in Febuary 2011.  It was an eye opening experience for the desperation in the hearts of the people in West Africa.  I hoped and prayed for this day to be much calmer and organised.
As I looked out the window at the few people walking in the dark on the streets before 5am, I thought about my position for the day.  This screening day I had been given the responsibility of Team Leader of the History Station.  At this station we would take the patient’s observations, weight and asked them a series of medical health questions.  My team had 14 nurses and 14 day volunteers to translate everything we needed to ask.
When we arrived to the screening site, I gathered my nurses together and we walked to our station.  The most important thing to me was that we would first commit our day to God and ask for his blessing and that we would work with his strength and not our own.

The History station was situated in an under pass, under the stadium seats, with a tunnel for the breeze to blow through and a corridor to the left for the patients to be escorted down to their surgery specialty area.  I had been to the stadium where the screening was the afternoon before to set up our area and help out.  We had 7 long tables, with space for a nurse, patient and translator at the end of each table and vital signs equipment in the middle to share.  We had about 80 chairs set out for the patients to wait in.
The sun was still not up and we were walking around by the light of our flashlights, but I gathered the nurses together and went through a few details for the day.  I was sent my team of translators and just as we were finished setting everything up, our first patient came through at 5:30am!  Within about 20 minutes the pre-screeners and registration sent through enough patients to fill all of our chairs!

For the next 10 ½ hours my nurses and translators worked tirelessly taking histories and vital signs on more than 1,000 patients!!!!  I walked around answering questions from the nurses and translators, sorting out problems, keeping the patient flow going, weighing the babies, picking up the rubbish blown by the beautiful breeze off the tables, finding caregivers for patients who came without them, restocking the tables with whatever was running out, then adding 4 more tables and explaining to 8 new nurses and translators how this station was run and what to do.
We had an amazing team of escorts bringing in only enough patients to fill all of the chairs and then more escorting patients to their specialty area when they were finished with us.  When the general surgery room was full, our escorts would pick out the plastic surgery and maxilla facial surgery candidates from the crowd, sitting waiting patiently.

By about 10:30am the line outside the stadium was closed to more people coming.  By about 1:30am the line was completely inside the stadium and there was an end in sight!  Then by 3pm registration, the station sending us patients finished their work.  Finally we could really see the end in sight!  By 4pm every history, of every patient had been taken.
I can’t explain how extremely proud I was of my amazing team who worked so tirelessly screening history on patient after patient.  During the day we had had 1,660 people come through the gate, some were told sorry and taken to the prayer station but the rest that could possibly have a surgery were taken through to us.
What an amazing day!  Praise the Lord for the peace and orderly way the patients waited, for the great organisation of every station and the amazing team work by all.


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