A week or so ago screening took place for the next round of plastic surgery patients that will be treated on the Africa Mercy here in Cameroon. I’m not sure how many patients came in hopes of receiving treatment (it lasted ALL day) or how many we ended up accepting, but it was enough to completely fill the plastics surgery schedule for the next 5 weeks. Meanwhile, surgeries continue on patients with hernias, cleft palates, ameloblastomas, thyroid goiters, etc. Plastics is just one service.
In addition to other types of surgeries, there are opthalmologists who perform cataract surgery (children and adults – a real issue here) on up to 40 patients a day.
AND….we have a full dental clinic off the ship that has treated over 5,000 patients since the ship arrived in Cameroon last August. Likewise, we have a Ponseti clinic off the ship that treats children with club feet. (The Ponseti method is a non-surgical method of correcting club feet through manipulation and casting).
There is soooo much going on through this ministry. And though it’s only a drop in the bucket, this is happening: “Changing lives, one life at a time.” We learned last night during our weekly Thursday evening briefing that of the world’s 7.6 billion people, 5 billion (2/3!!) do not have access to safe surgical care. But Mercy Ships has provided just that to well over 30,000 patients since 2007.
(So this week the post hopefully won’t be as long (my son told me last week’s post was too long, so he didn’t read the whole thing 🙂 I understand.)
I want to talk about how it’s not JUST surgery that we do here. In the States or other developed nations, if you go in for surgery, you are most likely to have a good outcome because the care is good, yes, but also because most likely you are healthy and well-nourished. Surgeons do not do elective procedures on patients who are malnourished, because you cannot heal if you are malnourished. As a wound care nurse, I and my co-workers preach relentlessly to patients and their families that they must consume good proteins and carbohydrates in order to heal. Not so much a problem for us in the developed world. But take Paul Pascal (below). He came to Mercy Ships in such a state of malnutrition that the staff marveled that he was alive. He was in desperate need of cleft lip/cleft palate repair (as this had impacted his ability to take in nourishment), but before Mercy Ships would consider operating, they admitted him for feeding, to boost his nutritional status, and get him to the point that he would in fact be able to heal. Watch the transformation 🙂 :
Once he plumped up, off to surgery he went, with a wonderful outcome:
During a medical inservice presentation recently, the current plastic surgeon, Dr. Tertius Ventner, was asked why we have such a high complication rate on our plastics patients (we are still following multiple patients who had surgery in Nov/Dec, who in another place would have long been healed). His answer was that one of the main reasons is the malnutrition issue.
Which brings me back to the fact that we don’t just bring people of the ship and “surgerize” them. The day after the screening, those patients who have been scheduled for surgery returned to our outpatient tents, where we did basic pre-op teaching, and provided them with packets of MANA (gotta love that name!), a nutritional supplement, that they are to take 4 times a day until surgery. Most are admitted to the Hope Center during this time where they get nutritious food, and will be brought to the Ship the day before their surgery. And for the entire length of stay, they and their caregivers are fed nutritious meals three times daily.
And that’s not the only daily bread that they get 🙂
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’ Matthew 25: 35-40
Yesterday we discharged Dieudonne, a patient who had debulking of his right foot and toes for gigantism. We’ve been doing his dressing daily since I arrived on the ship, and daily he has tried to teach us French and Fulfulde as we work on him. (He just laughs at me….. no more foreign languages sticking in my brain 🙂 ) At any rate, as he left, he clasped my hands and through a translator said, “From the bottom of my whole heart I thank you, and ask God to bless you, and increase your knowledge and skill so you can continue to bless others.” This message was for all of the nurses. And you can bet it made me cry. He blessed me far more than anything I did for him.
I love the following words about volunteering on the Mercy Ships:
“Nothing worth doing is easy. The lives you help save aren’t the only ones that will be changed. You will also be transformed. You will work hard, long hours. You will be pushed to your limits. Your heart will break with compassion for those you are serving. But it will be tremendously fulfilling every single day.” (From https://www.mercyships.org/volunteer/life-on-board/ )
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2