Sunday, December 14, 2014

My Thanks

(November 27 - December 6)

Happy Thanksgiving! (belated)

I am thankful for all you!  My loved ones back home - family, friends, supporters.  Thank you all!  Your encouragement - in all forms - is so vital to what we are doing here.  Just seeing the numbers of people reading this blog is incredibly encouraging to us.  So, please, keep reading, keep praying, keep loving.

The ship hosted a Thanksgiving celebration this year.  Usually the ship does not celebrate an individual country's holidays.  However, the ship decided that giving thanks is appropriate and worthy of celebration.  Despite its American origins, the concept is universal.  Many individuals onboard came together to create an incredible Thanksgiving experience.  There was a joyful air everywhere…

About 200 dinner places were set up in our International Lounge.  Dinner was served family style.  We had turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, baked sweet potatoes and plantains, and gravy.  The galley staff did a remarkable job preparing these dishes.  The Lounge was decorated with beautiful bouquets and also many, many Malagasy hats.

A local band entertained us.  They were wonderful.

Our own Dr. Gary Parker carved the turkey.  As a Max Fax surgeon, he often has to make delicate cuts.

There is a story behind the many hats...Our Managing Director's wife is Malagasy, and she wanted to give us something of her country.  She purchased hats for each of the 200 participants.  The hats hung from the ceiling in glorious array.  Each hat had a specific name written inside.  After dinner, the hats were cut down and presented to each participant.  However, each person had to say what they were most thankful for before receiving the hat.

I am thankful for Joe, who having never been out of the country, decided to start with a two-year commitment to places unknown.  I am thankful for Megan who has become a great friend.  She has made this place seem like home, such is the strength of her friendship.

I wanted to share with you some of the specific patients that I have cared for during the last few weeks.

Vololonirina…you met her last time.  Here is her before photo:

 Here are the doctors working diligently during the long surgery (which lasted over five hours!):

Here is Vololonirina about seven days after the surgery:

Finally, here she is at her follow up, outpatient visit:

She was so thankful, she wrote a letter to us.  The letter is beautiful.  Here it is, translated from Malagasy:

This little boy is Mario!  He is an absolute flirt, blowing kisses to all the nurses…

This is my friend Hermina who had a teratoma removed.

Here is a photo of the entire A Ward one day.  Those in blue are the nurses and translators:

Here are two patients who have had hernia repairs:

Yolanda's daughter had come in to our orthopedic ward in the first weeks (in fact, you can see the casts).  Yolanda is still breastfeeding and noticed a problem with one of her breasts.  During one of her daughter's outpatient visits, she asked the doctor for help for herself.  The doctors found an abscess.  We were able to admit her as a patient and surgically drain the abscess.  

This is Jean.  We removed a 13-pound tumor from his upper right leg.  He came from Antananarivo, the capital, which is an eight to ten hour drive.

Here are two of our general surgeons Dr. Abel (on the left) and Dr. Olupot (on the right) working together in the OR:

I cared for Mikael several days after his surgery.

Here he is taking a break with a fellow patient before challenging her to a race!

And here is another Mario, who like all our children, is very possessive of his balloon.

For those of you who were paying attention, you may be wondering why I was caring for ortho patients when I am part of the General Surgery Ward.  Well, due to low census (or lack of patients), I spent a few days working in the very busy Orthopedics Ward.  Most of our patients in General go home the day after surgery.  Most, but not all.  Most of the weekends, we close A Ward from Saturday after lunch until Monday afternoon.  Our patients who had surgery Friday usually go home Saturday by 2pm and the new patients arrive Monday around 3pm for surgery on Tuesday.  Instead of calling off, or giving the day off to, the same nurses, the charge nurses decided that A Ward nurses would sometimes float to other wards so we could spread out the extra days off.  

I love this idea!  I have enjoyed working in the Orthopedics Ward.  The patients are all children no older than sixteen years…Again, balloons are a valuable commodity.  

Each child receives a teddy bear upon admission.  Some like to snuggle...

This little girl strapped her "baby" to her back, just like the mamas do:

The nurses play games, pass out stickers, take the patients for walks…

Mariette learns how to play Go Fish!  Anyone have a seven?

 We also use every available means to distract patients…not only from pain, but also from inactivity since they are on bed rest the first few days after surgery.

Sometimes, a distraction is simply the chance to make a new friend.

The hospital also plays movies…twice a day only…and the children become so enthralled...

Sometimes, one will surprise you with what they find to keep occupied…

However, we've found that bubbles are the best distraction.

Our Hospital Chaplains visit every day, every ward.  Marc, shown here with his guitar, is a pastor of a local church.  He heard about Mercy Ships and wanted to be apart of what we are doing.  He still acts as pastor for his church, but does miss some Sundays when he takes his turn working weekends.

Some patients are still hesitant to reveal themselves even amongst people with similar afflictions.

Here is one patient wearing sunglasses indoors…

But we do our best to help them love themselves by loving them…

Here is the patient after surgery:

And again on the day he left us - already the swelling has decreased significantly!

Here are a few patients from our Max Fax Ward:

And, here is one of our youngest patients:

I enjoy going through the photos.  I also enjoy sharing them so you can see exactly why we are here.  There will be some changes to my ward in the new year, and I look forward to sharing those with you!