When I last wrote I was at sea, just barely this side of seasick and trying not to roll out of my top bunk. For the record: the seas calmed after two days, I never did roll out of my bunk, and we arrived safely in Lomé, Togo, on February 10th. I never did see dolphins, but I did see lots of flying fish (really quite amazing; go look them up online), several whales (just dorsal fins and the blow, but still amazing), and a sea turtle. I quite like sailing, especially standing at the bow looking for marine life while the wind wreaks havoc with my hair and the sun gently slides into the ocean.
(Togolese people welcoming the Africa Mercy into Lomé)
After arriving in Togo we promptly started cleaning and setting up the hospital. I spent more hours than I care to remember on my hands and knees stripping wax off the floors: a modern-day Cinderella lightheaded from the fumes of the wax-stripping chemicals. The wax stripper was so noxious that it it removed my toenail polish, peeled a layer of skin off of my hands and knees, and I don't even want to think about how many poor little brain cells it killed (I need those, you know!). I also spent a day working in the laundry room where I managed to give myself blisters on my hands while trying to wring out steaming hot laundry. (Lesson learned: put it straight into the dryer no matter how sopping wet.)
But it's done! Floors are freshly waxed, sheets and blankets crisply tucked into hospital corners on beds, supplies restocked, and every available surface (including the ceiling) double-bleached. We're ready for patients.
Somewhere in amongst all this cleaning flurry I had a chance to meet some Togolese health officials who have been researching the social and emotional effects of VVF. Thanks to the researchers we have a list of women that we may be able to provide surgery for which is greatly encouraging.
Speaking of VVF, I am slowly growing into my new job. I've realized just how deep an appreciation I have for order, planning ahead, and a good orientation-- all things I wish were a little more prevalent at the moment. But I have enjoyed the organizational and planning aspects so far, and I like being able to see the big picture and plan accordingly.
- Patients arrive at the hospital on Wednesday and our first surgeries are Thursday. Please pray for a smooth start as many of the staff are new. We also have about 75 Togolese volunteers who will be working with us as translators in the hospital, so please pray for good teamwork as we all try to help each other figure out how this whole thing works.
- Mercy Ships is having lots of small patient screenings (small meaning anywhere between 100-500 plus people) as opposed to one large screening as in years past (with several thousand people). There are many people that we must say "no" to as the ship has very specialized surgeons and we only have so many surgical slots. Our hope and prayer is that people will see the love of God in us regardless of what answer we give them.
- I would appreciate prayer as I continue to grow into my various jobs (I have three, two of which are new). I am being trained as a charge nurse this week, and will alternate working as a regular nurse and a charge nurse on the wards for two months (after which I will go to VVF full time--VVF surgery starts late May).
- The Togolese elections happen March 4th--please join with the people of Togo in praying for peace. I don't understand the political situation here but we are all praying for a peaceful election, results period (results are announced several days to a week afterwards) and for a peaceful transition of power.