Monday, 27 January 2014

Community at Work

Working in this hospital is very different to working in a hospital at home for several different reasons. I like to stand back and watch things going on in the wards, the interactions between patients and their caregivers, patients and others caregivers and patients and fellow patients. In so many little things I see sweet community at work.
Unlike at home, our patients lay in their beds’ side by side, talking about things like how they found Mercy Ships, how they felt about the way they looked before they got to have surgery, how much it would have cost them if Mercy Ships hadn’t turned up, how they became sick and so on. There are always conversations going on and sometimes I ask them what they are discussing- the other day it was Primus, the local beer and one time about the Chinese eating weird things like flies.

A fair number of patients in D ward (the Maxillofacial ward that I work in) each field service stay for an extended period of time, perhaps two to three months. These patients become part of our D ward family and although the patients in the beds beside them may come and go, community is still built amongst them.

This precious boy stayed with us from Nov-Jan

Other things in the ward community which are unique are the caregivers sleeping under the bed. When you are walking between patient beds’ you have to be careful that you don’t tred on limbs sticking out from underneath. I was walking between the beds one night shift, taking a patient’s blood pressure when I heard whimpering coming from under that bed. I looked down and saw a small hand under my shoe! Whoops! I quickly lifted my foot and the whimpering stopped and the hand disappeared back under the bed. Needless to say, I was much more careful about where I was walking from then on.
These caregivers also make up the community in the ward, caring for others children, showing the new patients how to do things as well as looking after their own relative.

There is practically no privacy in the hospital here. All the doctors’ rounds are in the same room and sometimes when we’re discussing something no so important, if others in the room are interested, they too will come and stand in on the conversation and sometimes give their opinion or their own translation.

Recently we had three patients stay on the ward in beds next to each other for a period of about three weeks. They all had had a similar procedure and all had a similar complication and the same treatment. During the day they all chatted with each other and played games together, treating each other like brother and sister, they teased and laughed together. On rounds one morning when the woman in the centre bed was told she could be discharged, she immediately turned to the guy in the bed next to her telling him that she’d won the competition. There were smiles all around and genuine joy at seeing her discharge and then the others too, one by one were able to discharge. But I will always remember the three of them together, doing what community here does best.

I love to walk into the ward and be welcomed by huge smiles, and joy-filled greetings. It hits me in the deepest part of my heart like a burst of sunshine. We are a family, one big community. We get to care for these people in their most vulnerable moments and we love on them until the minute they walk out of our lives, not just the ward.

That is what it is like to work in D ward.

A quick update on Angelique from my plee We Need Your Help: She's progressing but very slowly. In the last few days she has lost weight and so we are battling the unknown. Her wounds are slowly healing, but  her weight is swinging up and down. Please continue to pray for her. It is lovely to see her still happy, able to get in and out of bed easily and walking the four flights of stairs up to Deck 7 every day for sunshine and fresh air. Here she is with her mother, enjoying some outside time. Thank you for praying, please don't stop yet!!!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

We Need Your Help!

Towards the end of last year I met a patient only a few years younger than myself. She already had two children, one five years old, the other three. The three year old was by her side, as was her mother. Her husband, she said, had abandoned her when her tumour started growing. It was eight years ago that some form of tumour began to grow from her maxilla (cheekbone) and out of her mouth. After spending a long time in a local hospital with little to no help and the tumour not reducing but actually growing in size, she came to us.

As the tumour grew, her small body shrunk and by the time she sat on the bed in our ward she was really just skin and bone. We spent a few weeks trying to fatten her up before we operated. It was a very delicate balance and we needed to remove the tumour before her body got too sick, but we needed her to be healthier before the tumour was removed so that she would heal well.
In the end, we had to remove the tumour before we could get her healthier, because we were running out of time. Much prayer went into the weeks and days before her surgery and God did amazing things for her. The surgery went better than expected and she was not even ventilated post operatively.

As the time has moved on, she has not yet gained weight even though we are trying so hard. Her wound has begun to break down and we desperately need you to pray for her.

As I looked after her tonight, I removed her bandages, and my heart sunk as I saw her face beginning to gap open. I can see that it’s from malnutrition that her body doesn’t have enough reserve to give her good healing. We’re doing the best we can for her with medicine and good care, but we need more and that’s where I need your help. Please pray for her! Think of her at every meal time, when you are giving yourself good nutrition to fuel your body, remember that she needs it too, perhaps more than us, who often eat because it’s time or because it tastes good.
Please help us by praying and you’ll be taking part in her amazing story of restoration.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Hi friends! Happy New Year! I hope you’ve had a moment already this year to sit down and reflect on all that you have lived through this past year and what opportunities lay before you in the new year.
Before I plunge into the New Year thoughts I’m going to swing back to Christmas.
Being my first Christmas away from my family, I was pleasantly surprised at the fun we had on the ship. The ship tradition is that everyone puts their shoe outside their cabin door on Christmas Eve to be filled with treats, cards and small gifts from friends.
After attending the Christmas Eve service on board, I headed down to my friends’ cabin with a bunch of friends and we played games together. While we were playing people began filing past the door, some stopping to put down a little gift. By the time I walked down to my cabin there was a little pile of cards and treats outside my door! The hallways were covered in little piles of gifts. I snuck around the ship too, placing little hand-made gifts out.
Originally I thought I’d wake up on Christmas morning disappointed that my stocking (pillow case if I was in my parent’s house) would be sadly empty, but with this little ship Christmas tradition I had quite the little pile and then a few gifts from home that had lovingly been posted and saved until Christmas. It was truly abundant and my heart was full reading the Christmas cards that had been posted from all over the world and from all over the ship too. Instead of feeling sad that I wasn’t with my family, my heart was full of love for my ship family present and those who’d been my ship family before and were now home, but hadn’t forgotten me.

My friends and I met up in the dining room where we enjoyed a wonderful brunch and spread of food, before retiring to my single cabin where I was cabin-sitting (like house sitting) where we opened gifts together, just like I would have done with my family at home.
We joined up with a bigger bunch of friends in the evening to make pizza and eat together and then watch a Christmas movie to finish out the day. For a Christmas away from home, it was truly a good one.

Apparently the traditional Christmas cracker is a commonwealth country thing

A couple of days later, I headed out with friends to a beach about an hour away from the ship to camp overnight. We drove out to a deserted space where there was no one else around and we set up camp, one tent and eight hammocks. We enjoyed swimming in the strong waves, strolling along the deserted beach, soaking up the sun, reading, napping, eating, chatting and even some beach cricket after Jasmin found a piece of driftwood shaped like a cricket bat.

We spent the evening by the camp fire and gazing at the stars, shouting out when we saw a shooting star. It was a wonderful time of chilling out, being off-ship and away from our workplace.

The new week began and New Years Eve was upon us! Again there was group of us who trekked off to the beach, this time to stay in a house, to enjoy time off-ship and time together to celebrate the New Year.
I took some time out to sit and chat with God about the year gone. I thought over what I’d walked through this past year, the places I’d been, lessons I’d learnt, how I’d grown and changed and then wondered and asked Him about the year 2014 and what it’s going to hold. I don’t have a plan past June really and still don’t have any divine inspiration about whether to move back to Australia or carry on with Mercy Ships or to change direction completely. I’ll have to wait on that one.

This week is also my birthday. My life looks nothing like I imagined it would at this age. I feel like there are milestones that everyone hits at certain ages, like walking and then going to school and then getting your driver’s license and then suddenly there are ‘milestones’ like getting married and having children, but there’s no set age and even when you’d like it to happen, it doesn’t have a time frame. When I was school aged I thought by my age it would have happened already, but it hasn’t. I wouldn’t change my life to have it happen differently, I just wonder if it ever will and when it could. Only God knows what my future holds and I trust Him for I know He has great plans.

Happy New Year friends! I hope it brings you a fresh new look at life, renewed hope for the future, for relationships and friendships and a deeper relationship with your creator.

Thanks for the photo Vanessa!

Goodbye from my 26 year old self. Hello 27.


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