Friday, October 20, 2017

Africa Mercy - Ready, Set, Go: One Nurse's Story

My friend Marilyn is in Africa serving as a nurse on the Africa Mercy. She emails me and I share her words with you. For those of you who know nothing of  Marilyn's story, the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship that travels the African coast with a crew of nurses and doctors. They come from all over to give of their time as volunteers. 

"Ready, Set, Go"

The eye team is almost launched.  The screening group screened over 300
people today.  They screen again tomorrow, and then Friday we expect to
process 60 people through the follow-up exam and schedule them for
surgery, which starts October 2.  By next week, we should be rolling
through the process daily, hopefully with most of the bugs worked out. 

 Now...are the potential patients really out there, and will they come?
 This is a new country for Mercy Ships, and it usually takes a bit of
 time to build reputation and trust.

Since I don't have any patient stories yet, I'll share one I heard over
dinner about a man with a very large facial tumor.  He lives up in the
northern part of the country, speaking a different language from the
common ones around here.  He was approved for surgery by the advance
team...but his tumor started to bleed before the ship was ready to
operate.  We put him in a local hospital here in Duoala (at our expense,
of course) and gave him a transfusion (blood donated by one of our
ship's crew), and got him stabilized.  So, he was one of the very first
surgeries in this country, and he got a good result.  Even before
surgery, he was encouraging other patients who were waiting for surgery.
 After surgery, he found one woman of his language group who was quite
afraid, so he got his own chart to show her the before and after
pictures.  I think we should hire him, especially since his language
group is scarce around here, and we need translators.  Of course, he
might have a family back home...  But wherever he goes, he's likely to
be an advocate for Mercy Ships, helping others to overcome their fear
and distrust.


Africa Mercy - First Day: One Nurse's Story

My friend Marilyn is in Africa serving as a nurse on the Africa Mercy. She emails me and I share her words with you. For those of you who know nothing of  Marilyn's story, the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship that travels the African coast with a crew of nurses and doctors. They come from all over to give of their time as volunteers.  

"First Day"

I arrived in Cameroon last night, got to my room around midnight, after
about 36 hours of travel without sleep.   I was supposed to arrive
several hours earlier, but my first flight out of Syracuse had
mechanical problems, and so they had to completely reroute me, through
Paris instead of Brussels.  Now that is one intimidating airport!  Huge,
with multiple terminals, a complicated bus system between terminals, and
poor signs.  It took a couple of hours to get from arrival gate to
departure gate.  Luckily, I had six hours to kill, so taking two hours
to find my way wasn't overly stressful.

I was up again at 5:45 AM to start my first day of work.  We have 22 day
workers (the locals that we hire to translate, teach, manage patients,
and do many of the technical tasks), so I have a lot of new names to
learn.  Dr. Glen spent most of the day still teaching the team--he is an
excellent teacher!  The day crew seem like they are all fairly strong in
English.  That will help a lot.  They also seem like cheerful workers,
enthusiastic and involved.  I think we're off to a good start.

Initially the plan was for government workers to screen for cataracts
upcountry before the ship arrived and then send them to us for surgery.
For reasons I don't know, that plan didn't work well.  That meant that
we needed to restructure our team to handle the extra work of doing the
initial screening.  So, now the eye team has been subdivided into task
groups.  One group will be responsible for the initial screening
process.  They will see hundreds of people each day, selecting those
that seem like they'd be good candidates for cataract surgery.  Those
folks will get an appointment for secondary screening at the off-ship
eye clinic.   At this appointment, the second group will test their
visual acuity (we select for the more profoundly blind) and give them a
more thorough eye exam.  If they are still good surgical candidates, we
do a variety of measurements to determine the correct lens.  When we
give them an appointment for surgery, we need to teach them of possible
complications so that they can give informed consent, and we need to
teach them what to do to prepare for surgery.  This last step of
appointments and teaching is where I will be working.

The third task group is the day-of-surgery eye room, where I have worked
in previous times.  They bring the people onto the ship, prepare them
for surgery, and then send them home after surgery with careful
instructions on what to do next.  The fourth stop for the patients is
the surgery itself--but that's the OR crew, not our team.  The next task
group of our team is the post-surgical care group.  They see the
patients the day after surgery, see any patients that need further
follow-up, and see all the patients again at six weeks for a final check
and JAG treatment (a laser treatment that pokes holes in the posterior
capsule behind the new lens, done because about 20% of all cataract
patients develop cloudiness in this membrane after surgery; the JAG
treatment prevents this.)

I think that this new organizational scheme will be an improvement over
what we've done in the past, where one clinical team handled all the
tasks that weren't done on the day of surgery itself.  Divide and
conquer--I think it will reduce the stress and chaos of one team trying
to do too many tasks at once.

We don't have internet at the team house where I live off ship, so my
access to internet may be sporadic--free time on the ship will probably
be random and scarce once we actually get underway with secondary
screening in the clinic.  I'll write when I can.

Keep us in your prayers as we gear up to do 2200 surgeries in the next
six months, nearly double of what we've done in previous field services.


Africa Mercy - A New Beginning: One Nurse's Story

My friend Marilyn is in Africa again serving as a nurse on the Africa Mercy. She emails me and I share her words with you. Afraid I'm quite behind on her posts, but I know that some of you have followed her amazing adventure and would miss hearing her news. For those of you who know nothing of  Marilyn's story, the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship that travels the African coast with a crew of nurses and doctors. They come from all over to give of their time as volunteers. They are such a blessing and it just blows my mind how wonderful they are in their outreach. The emphasis has been on much needed eye surgery. They are headed for Cameroon,  in West Africa.

 "A New Beginning"

"In one week I will be returning to Mercy Ships for a field service in
Cameroon.  Am I excited?  Oh, yes!  Let me tell you a bit of background
now, because once I get there, we will hit the ground running, and it
might be a while before I can write again.  (And while I’m thinking
about it...if you would rather not receive these group emails, just let
me offense will be taken...I’d rather not clutter up your
inbox if you don’t actually want to hear this stuff.)

Cameroon is in West Africa, just below Nigeria, right at the bend.  It
is a poor country, lacking in medical care for most of the population.
Our ship, the Africa Mercy, provides free surgeries of several types,
including cataract surgery.  Apparently there is a large need for
cataract surgery--the government of Cameroon wants us to do twice our
usual number of surgeries.  That means restructuring the team and
devoting two operating theaters to the task this year.  It is exciting
to think of the thousands of lives about to be marvelously impacted by
the restoration of sight.

One of the changes that impacts me directly is that I will not be living
on the ship.  Bursting at our seams, Mercy Ships has set up two team
houses for some of the crew who work mostly off ship--the eye clinic,
the dental clinic, and the Hope Center (for patients in rehabilitation
after surgery). Each team house will hold about 15 people, and that’s
where I will be living this year.  That will certainly be different...I
have a lot of questions, but I’ll find out what that’s like soon enough.

My job on the eye team will be different this year, too.  I will be
Senior Scheduling Nurse instead of working with the patients on the day
of surgery.  So, there’s much I don’t know about my job as well as my
living situation--it’s an adventure all around.  I think that my tasks
will be primarily administrative--working with the schedules for the
clinic evaluation before surgery, surgery itself, and for post-surgery
follow-up.  I think that I will be working in the off-ship eye clinic
some days and at various screening sites on other days.  I will be
seeing a greater volume of patients than I ever have, but seeing them
much more briefly.  I have no idea if this job will be as satisfying and
full of great stories as what I had before, but it’s a job that needs
doing, and I have the privilege of doing it.  What more could I ask?

Seven months.  Tropical, rainy, hot and humid.  Living on land instead
of the ship.  Working in various locations.  Battling traffic to get
there (not me driving!).  New role and responsibilities to learn.  It’s
an adventure, and it starts next week!