Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Take a Deep Breath

I'm laying by the pool on deck 9, with a view of the ocean and beach in the distance. The sun is hot on my back but a breeze blows the heat off and makes the sun tingle my skin. Finally I can lie here and relax after a busy few weeks.
The hospital is now closed. More than half of it has been double bleached, packed up and even some floors stripped and waxed. While all that cleaning was happening I was running around the hospital and stationed in D ward, our maxilla facial ward, sorting out each detail for all of our patients left in the hospital for their discharge home. Friday was the day the hospital closed so everything had to be ready!
By 4:30am Friday morning the five mamas, two kids, four babies and their fearless up-country leader, were up and out of bed to shower ready for their 12hr bus ride home to the north of Togo. At 7am our two wonderful crew members came to drive them to the bus station on the other side of Lome.
Then my two wonderful nurses set to work preparing the last few patients for discharge. The Outpatients team came in to do three dressing changes on patients that they will continue to follow up after the ship leaves.
We carefully went through each patient’s detailed discharge, making sure that they had everything they would need.  For some, this included money for traveling back and forth from outpatients appointments or referral letters for follow-up care or even cast removal for a little boy who came in and had a cleft lip repair and we found had a fracture wrist.
Each patient we farewelled one by one until there were only two left, Esther and Chara. Both needed continuing care in the local hospital and we had spent many hours putting together boxes of supplies that they would need. This included sheets, towel, a bowl to wash with, a bowl to eat from, dressing supplies for one month, nasogastric feeding supplies for up to 3 more weeks (totaling 126 bottles, plus extra), boxes of MANA (mother assisted nutritive aid) and many, many more things.
With the Communications team following us, we gathered all our supplies together and took our patients by their hands up the stairs and out to the gangway for the last time. We packed up the land rover, fellow nurses said teary goodbyes to their dear patients and we were off and waving goodbye to them and the Africa Mercy.
Once at the local hospital, the surgeon who would take over their care, who had also spent quite a lot of time on the ship this outreach working with Dr Gary, met us in the parking area and directed us to the ward.
Both patients, aged 16 years and 14 months, are staying in the beds next two each other in a 10 bed ward. The beds are bigger than ours on ship but the room about the same size as what we would fit 10 beds into. The bedside tables were rusty and falling apart, but otherwise the room was clean. After a small discussion about the room suitability, we made their beds with the sheets we brought, we assured each of them, sitting down and praying with them before giving them some time to sort out their things.
Each little hands-on nursing care costs money, so in the days leading up to her discharge we taught Esther to be her own nurse giving her own NG feeds at the correct times. After we had left to get some bottled water for her to use, I walked back into the room to see her and Chara's mama working together to put up her 13:00 feed. What a great team they will be.

Chara's papa and the day volunteer who knows Esther's local Nigerian language assured us they will look after her as though she was their sister and they would provide anything that she needed. The ship will be around for a few more days but then we will be gone, and although we have tried to provide the physical things that we could have imagined she would need, I'm sure there are things we couldn't provide. But that's where I have to have faith that God will provide their every need. We have left them in the hands of God and what better place could they be? And although we will sail away from here, each patient we have touched this year will live in our hearts and minds and I continually give them back to God and ask for his protection over their lives, for his work to be faithfully completed and that his word would go forth from them and would not return empty, but would bear fruit.

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