Friday, 20 April 2012


Chantal came to us at the very beginning of our Togo outreach.  She presented with a huge, gaping wound in her right arm pit and down her arm.  The wound was very raw, very infected and discharged very smelly fluid.  Chantal was small and skinny, for her 25 years, but had a bright smile on her face despite her circumstances.
She was admitted right away into our isolation room and we swabbed her wound wondering what sort of bacteria it was growing.  We completed all sorts of tests, during which we found multiple bacteria growing in her wound and that her body was HIV+.  Immediately I thought, Oh man, this is going to be an up-hill battle, but we will fight with all we have!
For the first couple of weeks Chantal endured very painful, 2 hour long, daily dressing changes.  She complained of pain constantly, leading to morphine infusions, scheduled pain medications and a myriad of other treatments.  She had a poor appetite and we had to encourage her to take every bite of nutrition.  Her nurses and those caring for her were amazing with the care they poured upon her, often going the extra mile and gently propping her pillows and massaging her hands when she was uncomfortable or distressed.
After some of the infection was cleared up, she was able to have a muscle flap and skin graft to her wound by our plastic surgeon.  Some of the graft took, other parts of it sloughed off.  Again the daily dressing changes continued, some happening in the OR under general anaesthesia for her comfort and pain relief.  And then again we regrafted the area where the previous graft had come off.  More dressing changes, more pain relief, more hand massages, more encouragement to eat enough food for her body to cope and heal her body and fight disease.
We moved her from the isolation room into the ward community.  She began to brighten!  A smile lit her face.  She would sing during devotions.  She was able to get herself to the toilet and she wanted to walk the hallways to stretch her legs.  She could go, with some help, to deck 7 to see the sunshine.
But again, she was knocked back by something.  Her heart rate skyrocketed, her appetite disappeared.  We put in a feeding tube and fought with her to keep it because without it her body just wasn’t coping.  We pumped more and more antibiotics into her body to fight the infection in her wound.
And finally after months of this, getting better, moving back into the ward and then having a set back and going back into ICU, we weren’t winning.  The bacteria in her wound was resistant to all our available antibiotics, her heart rate was still in the 160’s while she slept, her breathing was fast and not saturating her body with enough oxygen on room air.  We had done everything we could possibly do and we just weren’t winning.  Chantal knew we weren’t winning too and she didn’t want to fight anymore.
So a couple of weeks ago now, the decision was made to stop fighting and just provide comfort measures.  We stopped all antibiotics, we stopped her oral supplements and she didn’t want her feeding tube, so we removed that.  Her dressing changes became just for soaking up the drainage every 2-3 days.  And we continued to prop her pillows, massage her hands and give her whatever pain relief we had available.
We had a plan for her to go home to be with her uncle and aunt, but we had to have everything ready and organised.
Tuesday and Wednesday nights I looked after her on my night shift.  I knew it wouldn’t be long now until she gave up completely.
Then yesterday before I went for dinner I went down to the hospital.  There was Chantal in her big ICU bed, at the pilots entrance of the ship, (two big steel doors of deck 3 that the pilot enters and exits during the sail in and out of the port) with a beautiful view of the ocean water rippling in the wind.  We could see the green of trees, feel the gentle summer breeze and as the light slowly faded Chantal rested with one of her dear nurses and her mentor friend.  She called out Jesus’ name.
After about an hour resting there, we wheeled her back into the ICU and over the next couple of hours she slid away to be with Jesus.  Her last words being, “Jesus is here.”
We fought so hard in the physical, but we lost.
But during her time on the ship Chantal asked Jesus to be in her heart.  You could see the change in her spirit, but her body didn’t have enough energy to fight.  So even though we lost her, she is not lost forever.  She is being held in the arms of Jesus, her Saviour and she has no more pain, and there will be no more suffering.  She has been saved.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

African Mama

So, I'm not a mother, well, not a mother of my own baby, but working on the ward in this hospital in Africa, makes me mother to any baby within reach.  So what do mothers naturally do when their baby is upset or tired?  Hold them, carry them, rock them.  And this is how we do it:

I po-po the child.  I have learnt to do it just like the African mamas.  Just give me the baby, i'll swing them around to my back, lean forward, pick up the cloth, a tuck here and there and tie them on.  It is always much to the surprise of the on-looking mother or another caregiver or patient.  Even the Day Volunteers in the ward that I work with, are surprised at how quickly I can tie them on.  I will walk around the ward going about my work with a baby or small child strapped on.  And I love it!!!

Monday, 16 April 2012

The tooth fairy

Tonight one of my patient's mothers showed me a molar tooth she had found in her 9 year old son's bed while he was sleeping.  It was a healthy, strong, white tooth.  She was concerned he was loosing teeth and not having any new teeth growing.  We talked about baby teeth and adult teeth for a while and I tried to assure her that he'd probably be growing new adult teeth already.
While we were talking about teeth, I told her about our tooth fairy.  She laughed of course at how silly it was.  But then she told me, along with the translator helping, about their African version.
If they have a tooth fall out, they must not let a lizard see their missing tooth.  If one does, the story goes that the new tooth will not come.  To prevent this, they must wait until dark and throw their tooth on the roof of their house.
Interesting hey.

Friday, 13 April 2012


Do you ever look back on a time in your life that was difficult and see how God was working amongst the difficulties?  Even through the pain, God is present.
You see, we have a choice about bringing our hurts to Him.  I could choose to keep them to myself and wallow in the pain and suffer, or I can lay them before God with an exposed heart and ask for healing and restoration.  The thing is though, it takes time for the pain to fade, combined with a lot of faith and trust that God is good and has plans that are better than ours.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9 

 I have to actively choose that God’s word in the bible is truth and it is written for me!  I choose to believe that God promises me many things, like abundant joy and I just need to grab onto that promise and walk with it!

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21

“You will go out with joy and be led forth with peace.”  Isaiah 55:12

I read these scriptures and many more and walk through my day holding onto them.  And the more I practice the better I get.  The more I am opening up God’s word and seeking to find him amongst the pages, the more He reveals to me.

As I look back over the last few months I see one character trait of God’s stand out: FAITHFULNESS.  He is SO faithful!  He has met me where I am at, every time.  He has never asked of me more than I can handle and when I feel like I just can’t cope anymore, I call on Him for more strength.  And while I’m there, give me joy too!  Let my joy be in Him and not in my circumstances.  For circumstances change and happiness comes and goes, but God is constant and will continually give us all that we need if we ask Him.

So, whatever it is that you are battling this week or just today, this is my prayer for you:

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Life changes

Even when I am inconsistent with blogging, my patients are still rolling through the hospital.  So when I come back to writing about them I’m not sure where to start because so many great things and constantly happening!  So where can I start?  Perhaps with Edem.
Here is Edem on his admission day:

He still had good sight in his right eye unbelievably!  We just had to pray that during surgery everything for his sight would stay intact and protected!
Of course after surgery his face was very swollen and will still take further weeks for the swelling to go down and for the skin to shrink back from being so stretched with the tumour, but as far he could tell us, he could still see out of his right eye!!!  Here he is on his discharge day from outpatients.

Praise the Lord for the transformation and renewal of life!

Another amazing story is of Toyi.  Here he is pre-op:

I’m not sure what happened to his nose and face, perhaps it was a gangrenous disease called Noma which leads to tissue destruction of the face, especially mouth and cheek.  Anyway, he needed a new nose and a graft to his cheek to release the scar.  Over a period of about 4wks we were able to make him a brand new nose!
It’s a complicated two part surgery, but simply amazing what we can create!  He was afraid the people in his village wouldn’t recognise him!  Thankfully his sister joined him on the ward with us, to help with him, for he could be quite the grumpy, old, endearing man at times!  I’m sure having her here as a part of the process with him, will help him in his transition home.  Here he is on the day he left the ward with his sister.

We had so many beautiful kids come and go during these last few weeks.  Here are a few of them.

Oh man, i love my job here!


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