Olivia was struck by a facial flesh eating disease called Noma when she was two years old. 90% of children who get this disease die. She survived, but has lived the last 20 years of her life with a hole in the side of her face.
When the ship was in Madagascar last year Olivia came for treatment but she was pregnant and we were unable to help her. By the grace of God, the Africa Mercy returned for another year to Madagascar allowing time for Olivia to give birth to her second child, a premature but healthy baby girl, Julia. When Julia was only 8 weeks old Olivia came for surgery to fix the hole in the side of her face. I looked after her on my night shifts many months ago. She was quiet and uncomplaining of the pain caused by surgery. Baby Julia was also very quiet and barely cried. Olivia would hear Julia begin to stir during the night, sit up in bed, breastfeed her and lay her back down to sleep with barely a sound, just a dark shadow moving in the night. Olivia's mother Justine was also with Olivia, helping her care for baby Julia while Olivia was recovering.
Unfortunately the surgery to repair the hole in Olivia's cheek began to break down after a couple of weeks. Another much more complicated surgery was planned, a delayed flap from her shoulder to her cheek defect. This process is lengthy with many wounds, painful dressing changes and sore muscles as the skin from the shoulder is attached to the cheek and left for 3 weeks. Olivia rarely complained despite her head being at such an awkward angle. During this waiting period between surgeries Olivia's other child, Oliviene, aged 3, came to join us in the ward. This completed her little family and we were overjoyed at having them altogether during the Christmas season and for this long period of Olivia's journey.
Olivene is such a bundle of energy, with a mop of gorgeous curls, she is dearly loved and is frequently seen with crew from all over the hospital. She loves climbing on my back and singing "I like to move it, move it" from the song in the movie Madagascar. She loves nail polish and sitting in your lap, no matter what you are doing.
Over time Olivia's new flap tissue healed well and after the flap was released we all ooh'ed and ahh'ed over how great it looked. Olivia could once again look us in the eye and look after her children as their mother.
Today I walked over to Olivia's bed, baby Julia was laying there, squawking and smiling and talking her baby talk. Justine was watching her and laughing. Olivia had a smile across her face that seemed to say "yes, this child is mine and I love her."
As we've done her wound care the last few days though, her wound, which was looking so great and healthy is suddenly not so great anymore. We are doing everything we can to get enough nutrition into this woman to breastfeed her baby and make her wounds heal. She feels discouraged and I feel discouraged. I can see a look in her eye that is questioning us, every time we take that dressing down "it is better?" I wish I could turn my frown into a smile and say yes. But it's just not. And so I call out to you. Please can you pray for her? It's time to storm the heavens for her because there's only so much we can do until it's really just up to God and we need him to break through. Can you believe for great things for Olivia and her family? We need to see a miracle.