Monday, 25 March 2013


I am a curious person. I love to know what’s going on around me socially and in the hearts of those I am close to. I also like to know why I do the things I do, or why I sometimes feel the things I feel. I probably ask myself questions every day, often waiting for God to respond to show me why something bothers me or why, when I’m in a certain situation, do I feel like the way I do.

So I’m curious about you. Why do you read my blog? I would love to know.

There is one blog that I read and the curious thing is that I actually don’t really have much in common with the writer, except that I love the way she writes, her photography skills inspire me and one day I would love to be a mother too. I find myself going to her blog often to find out what her and her little family have been up to. The more I read, the more I want to know and keep up with what’s going on. Naturally when she announced she was pregnant with her third child, I was excited. Yes, strangely excited for a woman I’d never met. Stranger still that I talked about her pregnancy with my friends on the ship (also her blog readers) as though she were a friend of ours.
I wonder, do you know me?

While I was at home this past Christmas, I was catching up with an old friend of mine. We have one of those great friendships where we can go 12 months without seeing each other or even corresponding and when we see each other there is no awkwardness, only genuine interest and mutual excitement to hear how the other is. While we were catching up I was expressing my passion for the work that I do on the ship and how much I love being a part of Mercy Ships in West Africa. I was trying to describe to him how deeply my heart is connected to Africa and its needs. After a little silence he said, Deb, I’m just not sure how to relate to that. And that’s when I understood for the first time. Perhaps my life here is hard to relate to.  When catch up conversations at home turn to me, I’m often not sure what to say. There is a broken connection between life here and life at home. When I am in Australia, I’m not sure what to do with myself, because for this period of time, my life and my passion rest here, in this land and on this hospital ship where I can spend my work days pouring out love and still be wrapped in my favourite job. So through this space I try to express my passion, joy and heartaches to find a connection. Can you grasp it?
Does reading this blog help you to understand? Or do you already know this passion? Or perhaps you hold it and spend it on something else, something totally different to me. What is it that you love to pour yourself into?

Will you tell me about yourself? I am curious about you, the unnamed who reads my blog.
Subject: The unnamed.

Boil the kettle, take some tea and a comfy chair and a computer (or to be truly original- a piece of paper and envelope!) and I'll hear from you soon? :)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

How could you not love him?

I looked after this little patient a couple of weeks ago after his meningocele was fixed. A meningocele is the protrusion of the meninges of the brain or spinal cord through a defect in the skull or spinal column. We see a few meningocele or encephalocele (where the brain also protrudes) cases in babies or children every outreach but our CMO Dr Gary has never seen an adult with an encephalocele because he thinks they are not able to live that long with the defect.
After a few very tricky cases in the hospital here, involving repairing defects near the brain involving possible cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks, I'm always very hesitant to look forward to being involved, mostly because I lack the experience and knowledge and also because the meninges is very slow to heal and unlike a wound leaking blood, the meninges doesn't quickly stop leaking CSF. It takes time and is very risky, for infections like meningitis can be deadly.

I fell in love with this little guy pretty quickly and you'll see why!!! I would walk over to his mother, put my hands out to him and pick him up, no fuss from him. His little body was only about 5.6kg at 4 months old. I would lift him up and kiss his face and be rewarded by a great big smile. Sometimes I would just smile at him from across the room and call his name and see his whole face turn into one enormous smile. How could you not love him?
In the photos here, he is still very swollen, but in the days following the swelling went down so nicely he has now gone home!

I love that gummy grin!

I am so happy for this little friend of mine. His life has been changed and hopefully saved- we can only pray for the rest of the dangers of life!

"You turned my wailing into dancing,
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever."
Psalm 30:11-12

Monday, 11 March 2013

Sweet like honey

Did you see the 60 Minutes USA clip? My friend and co-worker Ali spoke during her interview about looking past the tumour or facial defect of a patient and focusing on who they are and not what they look like. I have been able to practice this time and time again and now it comes naturally. When a previous patient this outreach, who’s story you can read here, came out of surgery, most of the nurses said they couldn’t even recognise him and although he certainly looked different, I realised then that I’d practiced looking past the tumour for so long that he looked exactly as I’d imagined he did without the tumour. It was still him. He was still the same man I saw.
In the maxillofacial ward we have the opportunity to look past the tumour into eyes pleading for acceptance. It’s not very normal to have a patient in the ward for more than one afternoon before their surgery and the only pre-operative photo taken is for medical use, but one patient came to us a couple of weeks before her surgery because of a medical issue that needed sorting out before she could have surgery. She was friendly and happy to have a photo with a nurse.

I’m sure not how you feel seeing her photo. Stare into it. What do you see?

Do you see beauty and a fighting spirit? I do. This precious patient fought a facial flesh eating disease called Noma when she was 2 years old and has lived without a nose ever since. She has grown up and married and had two children, which she has left behind and come with her cousin to the Africa Mercy for help.
I have seen some very strange and mind boggling deformities and injuries over the past 2 ½ years, but it is the strangest thing to see someone completely missing half of their face. Movies like Star Wars have made characters without noses and it always seems weird but to meet someone face to face is completely different, to see inside their face and know what’s missing.

This beloved patient had an enormous surgery to reconstruct her face, using different skin flaps, her own bone grafts, and the insertion of an artificial airway (tracheostomy) while we wait for the new skin flaps to heal and we continue more surgery.

It’s still only the beginning of her healing process. There are more surgeries to come and a lot of healing and adjusting to a new face- not only the physical presence of having a nose but also the emotional change. I can’t even begin to imagine what a huge change that would be. She has been without a nose and palate ever since she was two years old. She would probably never have seen her own face with a nose and now she has one- although it’s not finished yet.
The waiting time between surgeries and healing, takes time and is painful. Her dear cousin is a sweetheart. After the doctors’ round one morning, I looked over to see her cousin sitting on the side of her bed, her left hand resting comfortingly on our patient’s chest, gently stroking her soothingly while telling her what we had discussed with the doctors. This cousin is always tender and loving, going the extra mile to care. Watching the two of them interact is sweet like honey.

One of the nurses decorated her bandage. Isn't she beautiful?

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Decisions, decisions

I began this blog post days ago with only two words- decisions, decisions. And then I stopped. What could I even write? How do I make the decisions for the next months/years of my life? How long do I wait for God to drop the answer in my lap? Do I just forge ahead with what it is that I am feeling I should do? And surely if God was opposed to that he’d just let me know?
 And so somehow in the last days I made a small decision. Instead of leaving the ship in June, at the end of the Guinea outreach, I’ve extended a little longer (don’t worry I’m still coming home in June to visit).
Perhaps to you, this decision of mine truly sounds small, but not for me. You see, I embarked this ship with about 30 other friends. We met in Texas at the Mercy Ships International Operations Centre way back in January 2011. And for many of those new friends I have seen them almost every day since. We have eaten lunch and dinner together every day, explored 5 new countries together, eaten new foods, experienced new cultures, gone on amazing up-country trips, had bad days and good days, ridden motorbikes together, sat in terrible traffic, explored beautiful sandy beaches, stayed in dodgy hotels, sung karaoke, sailed the Atlantic ocean, worshiped and prayed together. The list goes on.

 Although a good few have already left and some even returned during the last 2 years, at the end of this Guinea field service, more of them will go home, leaving behind only a small handful, and at my own choice, me.
This group has become my family. We know each other. We have walked through highs and lows, not always together, but sooner or later hurts are forgiven and grace is given (that’s what living in community does- it brings you to your knees).
So as I think upon the coming months (and weeks for one set of friends, off to get hitched) my heart  sinks as I realize, some great things come to an end. And it truly is an end. This period of life and season will never come again. I don’t know if I will ever have all these friends together in one place again (Until eternity perhaps, but that seems too far away).
So what can I do? Life moves on. And so must I. So I know to treasure these moments and seasons. I know how it feels to stand at the back of a room and watch what is going on and file it away and remember. I can already feel the pain of saying goodbye. I have had a LOT of practice over the last 26 months. I can’t even count the number of amazing people that have come and gone and are still deeply missed, but somehow God always comes and fills the holes that they leave behind. Often I wish I wouldn’t feel so deeply, because then life wouldn’t hurt quite so much. But then I remember, that leaves no room for God.

But I am staying on this Mercy Ship just a little longer, because even though my friends leave, my heart is planted here, on the ward where I see love poured out every day. Where I see discarded people come in and given new life. I can pour out my passion and skills as a nurse and lavish love. No greater joy have I found, than in working here. And so here I will stay, until God calls me elsewhere.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...