I have thought many times over the past months how to write this blog. Many days I felt heightened emotion and other days I felt neutral, like today. It’s pouring down rain right now and it just seems like the right sort of mood to make this news public. I have decided to end my long-term commitment with Mercy Ships and go back to Australia after this outreach ends, for no other reason than it’s just time to go home. I love the work I do on this ship more than any job in the world and despite knowing I will miss it incredibly, I still know it’s time.
When I walk down the hospital corridors as the OBF women walk and sing, their sweet melody echoing high into the decks above, a lump rises in my throat and I wonder how I will ever say goodbye. When we hug and wave our patients goodbye from the ward, knowing that they can return to their village tumour free or with a new lip or palate, able to become a part of normal society, I wonder how I will cope with nursing at home when it feels so much less significant. When I sit up on deck 7 with my patients at the end of the day, spending time playing games or running around after the kids, making sure they use up their energy, I know I will not be able to give this sort of holistic care at home, but in all of those moments I know that God is in this decision because I feel such peace, despite expecting the adjustment to be tremendously hard.
In approximately three months I will be disembarking from my home and community for six years. I can barely believe it even as I type, that time has disappeared so quickly. It has been swallowed up by the daily loving of new friends, exploring new countries and serving patients with all sorts of conditions. I’ve certainly had some high highs and some low lows, from seeing God perform a miracle in a man surviving when it looked like certain death to having a child die unexpectedly in my arms, my heart and character has been stretched to the maximum and I have grown more in these years than any time in my life.
We are getting closer to counting down the weeks left of the hospital being open for this Mada2 outreach. On May 20th the operating rooms close down and we will have one week left to recover the remaining patients. It’s the time of year where we get down on our knees praying to see all the wounds that are currently still not healed, to have skin growing to cover them.
Speaking of wounds, my patient Olivia who you have been praying for (thank you!), came back into the ward for a while in the last weeks so that we could give a little more attention to her wound which still hasn’t healed. We have applied the wound vac again in hopes that we can stimulate enough skin growth that she won’t need another surgery. Please continue to pray for her and her family. Her girls are still as gorgeous as ever. Baby Julia is getting so big and able to sit up on her own. Both girls love all the attention that is showered over them in the ward.
This last week I was able to go out with our Mercy Ministries team to the local Hopital Be Paediatric ward. In signing up to join the group that ministers to them, we have to leave our nursing, medical brains behind and just go as someone who cares. The paediatric ward is split up into several rooms with 4 or 6 beds. These rooms are small- probably smaller than your master bedroom. They hold rickety old hospital beds with plastic covered mattresses that were split open from being used for so many years. Each family member has to bring their own bedding, pillows, lapas (fabric), bowls, spoons, food, water etc and then buy the medical supplies that the nurse or doctor tells them to buy from the hospital pharmacy. Since each room is so small and the Malagasy people are a strong relational culture, each of the families speak to each other, like they do in the wards on the ship. They help each other out in ways that you would never see in a western country.
There were such a small number of us going for Mercy Ministries that we were able to just have one translator each and go into the rooms in pairs. We walked in and said hello to the family members and patients inside, taking the time to speak with each family or mother individually before praying for the whole room collectively. Seeing the tiny babies wrapped up in blankets or the toddler sprawled out on the bed looking quite ill, was nothing I had not seen before and not shocking to me, although also a picture you are not quickly able to forget. The eyes of the sickest child I met were so dull, I feared she was closer to death than life but I was not there to be a nurse and so I had to carry on. I met some beautiful new babies, some only hours old, and their loving family members who were caring for them. It was truly a privilege to meet each patient and to be able to stand in that room and pray for them. I also know that walking through the ward, seeing those sick kids, kindles the fire already burning within me. This Africa journey I’ve been on, is not ending.