Whether I want to believe it or not, this 2012-13 Guinea field service is quickly coming to an end. We only have two more weeks of surgeries and then one week of the hospital open, before everything in sight is packed up, pulled off the walls, bleached and put away for the sail.
Just the thought of doing those things gives me an indescribable feeling of sadness.
Every bed in the hospital that is packed down, means goodbye to every patient. On D ward for the last few months we have had some of the same patients stay with us while they wait for their healing. It is so lovely to walk into the ward each day and be greeted by the same faces, to see improvement each day and to smile and rejoice with every step nearer to recovery. Of course there have also been plenty of bad days, days that we have cried out to God for help, because this is so out of our hands. Nothing I can do, even with medicine, can help someone sometimes.
This hospital only works because God is with us, going before us and behind us. He brings the patients to us, walks with them while they are here and then as we discharge them back to their homes, where we most often cannot follow, we only have God to go with them.
Let's have a look at some of the journey’s of my patients this year:
This man we looked after from the beginning of the field service, back in September. You can read about his story here and here and here. He came in to the hospital for another procedure a few weeks ago.
I saw the back of a man as I walked up the gangway and my first thought was, That looks like Theirno! But he's solid and not skinny. When I reached him, I was right! It was this amazing man! And he was solid and looking so healthy and happy.
The following day as I walked into my evening shift, instead of being in surgery like he should have been, he was patiently waiting in his bed. My eyes caught my team leaders and I asked her without words, What's going on? Her eyes welled with tears. Oh no... my heart began to sink. It turned out we needed further scans to see clearer what they thought was the tumour growing back. Unfortunately, the scans were right. Our surgeon who has worked on board for 26 years has never seen a benign tumour grow back so fast.
He was taken to surgery two days later, covered in prayer, for the tumour that had grown back, to be removed in its entirity.
I was really surprised about his tumour growing back, but the thing is, we can never guarantee anyone's sickness won't come back and even if we save their life with a surgery, we can't ensure they're not hurt on the roads or by a different disease. But we can offer them a hope and a sure future with God as their saviour.
This amazing man was with us in D ward for such a long period of time, he saw us as we worked, not just with him, but with each other and cared for our other patients.
During this admission, one evening, as I was standing next to another dear patient in bed 1 (read her story here), he walked over to join the conversation. Now this beloved woman in bed 1 had also been with us for months and was having a bad day. These two patients had both, at separate times, had similar struggles. Both had had a tracheostomy, therefore they'd had their voices taken away at the hardest times. Both had struggled to put weight on to get healthy. Both weren't able to eat for months and were fed through a tube. Both had had bad days where they couldn't bear the future. But one, this man, had survived and grown stronger, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally and hopefully spiritually too.
As we stood by her bed, this man, a translator and this patient's sister, we talked about the road ahead. I knew it was hard for this woman, but I tried to encourage her that this man had been through things just as hard. Then this man spoke up, he said to her, "Take courage! They fought for my life." After the translation registered in my brain, my pulse quickened. I had written in one of my blog posts back in October '12, "...as long as this road is, HE IS WORTH IT! His life is worth fighting for! " But to hear those words out of his own mouth! He knew it! He knew his life was worth fighting for, HER life was worth fighting for.
Since then she has made a lot of progress! Look at her beautiful face now.
Just in case you don't remember her, this is how she looked before we began surgery in February.
She still has another surgery planned for cartilage to be put in her nose to give it some height. It will also take some time for the scars to relax and movement to come to make facial expressions. But when I see her face, I just think about the amazing journey that she's been on here with us and I feel so privileged to have been a part of it!