Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Adopting a Ward

For a period of time now I have adopted a ward. B Ward, the VVF women. They are on board for up to 2 weeks, sometimes more. Hanging around, dozing, carrying their urine bags up and down the hallways. In adopting the ward I go down almost daily to make pompoms, name signs, decorate boxes, and paint fingernails. You know, pretty useless stuff, but fun and though I am daily nervous about it, I am always glad I have done it. The women's faces light up and call out, "Mama!"
Here is photo of a few of them after their "Dress Ceremony", before they leave the ship to go home. Very special women!!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Together Again

This summer the 6 grandchildren are getting together. It is a real houseful when they all get together!!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Grateful For Her Underpants

Yes, she is grateful for her underpants. And she is not afraid to say it. She has been leaking urine constantly for the last 5 years. She last saw her husband when he left her at the hospital and said he was going to get the money to get her released from the hospital. He never returned. I would imagine it would be hard to find a person more grateful. She told her story and then sat down and then jumped up and interupted and explained she has not been able to underpants for 5 years.
Yesterday I went down to the dress ceremony for these 4 women. 1 had had this problem for 20 years. 1 still has a husband. That is unusual. The ceremony was translated from English to French and then into 2 or 3 local languages. I was at a church service on the ward on Sunday and I know there was almost simultaneous translation into 7 languages. A bit hard to stay focused but very interesting.
The entire ward clapped for these women, laughed for these women and nodded. The other 25 understood all they had been through. They have been through it as well. One woman in the ward during the ceremony would not look. She has had the surgery but is not dry. A patient I visited had had 7 surgeries before she was dry. One of our doctors went up country, brought back, I think, 20 women. They were going to stay in a hotel on the way down to the ship but no one would take them because they smelled bad. So he stayed with them in the bus as they slept. No room in the inn for them, either!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Africa Mercy in Benin

Thought you might like to see where we are docked.

Friday, 29 May 2009

More Window Shopping

The other day we were stopped at a traffic light. Yes, a traffic light!! And people in this country stop when they should and go when they should. It is an amazing thing! I have thought to myself that if you stop for long enough, any thing you could ever want will walk by you…on someone’s head or just waved at your window. It really does give a whole new meaning to “window shopping”. I was observing this when I thought, “I need to write down all the things I could buy from my window… I could not write fast enough…fire extinguishers, bathroom drains, teapots and teacups, exercise equipment, DVDs and CDs, posters of intestines, door handles, patio umbrellas, guitars, cute little rubber boots, maps of the world, posters of African leaders, grass clippers, desk lamps, clocks, battery chargers, thermos’, and last but not least, wine glasses. And around the corner…dresses in trees. I did buy one of those. I call it my tree dress. Window shopping – a truly African experience!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

False Alarm

Yesterday I was helping in the Cafe making coffee. Suddenly the fire alarm on board went off. I have never seen the cafe empty so quickly as people ran to their emergency stations. If it is a drill, the Captain will immediately announce "This is a drll, this is a drill, this is a drill" over the loud speaker system. Nothing yesterday. It took 5 minutes for the announcement that it was a false alarm. Meanwhile the name callers and fire teams and cabin checkers were all in place. Later we found out what had happened...One of the cataract patients, an older woman, was standing waiting in the stairwell for her surgery. The ship moved a bit and she reached out to steady herself (remember this woman is blind) and when she reached out she leaned against the fire alarm. Immediately the alarms went off and she began to cry. She thought she had broken the ship. I think it is funny. In hindsight.
I understand her concern. I see these people coming so slowly up the gangway and so hesitant sometimes even on the stairs inside. Many have never been on board a ship before. They are very courageous to come. And desperate...

Friday, 15 May 2009

Desperate to be seen...

I was just having a cup of tea in my cabin and looked out and saw this young woman on the dock, napping as she waits to be seen. So often the view from my window is just amazing, not in big ways but a story in itself. Every morning just below my window 30 to 40 people wait to be guided up the aft gangway into the hospital for their cataract surgeries. Our Eye surgeon does over 30 surgeries a day. He has perfected a low tech, no stitch surgery that takes under 5 minutes usually. He is truly amazing. If I walk down the hospital hallway later in the day, I will see them waiting, with a bit of tape on their foreheads over the eye to be done. Often they have cataracts in both eyes.
The other day a motorcycle driver came in for a surgery and after surgery headed out with a patch on that eye. There are over 70,000 of these Taxi motorcycles. But it was quite alarming to think of him driving.
Yesterday Ken and I took a group of the crew out to see the Eye team. It is out at these clics we set that we see thousands of patients and screen for cataract surgeries. While there , a near fight broke out.

People are desperate to be seen. We do understand the desperation to have your eyes seen. We cannot understand.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

A couple of weeks ago, our Eye Team became aware of a family with 3 children, all 3 blind from cataracts in both eyes. They were 1, 3 and 7 years old. The oldest could see a tiny bit in one eye if he held something within a couple of inches from the side of his right eye. So, it was arranged for them to come on board for surgeries. The one with the greatest hope for good sight was the 1 year old. The 7 year old apparently was on the edge, at an age when even with the cataracts removed, it might have been too late for the child to see. They stayed on board and the next morning the patches were removed. It was quite calm. You never know how people will respond. One of the team said when the patches were removed the eldest did "his blind thing" of feeling and putting something so close. Then he walked over to the surgeon and took something out of his hand. He obviously could see. After the 2 week post op appointment they are doing great. The eldest has sight that is not as good as the other 2. The mom is very pleased but she says she knew what to expect when all 3 were blind, but now they get into everything!! I can imagine....

Last week I saw tulips.
I do enjoy being in Africa but have been realizing that I miss spring flowers. About the same time I realized that, our daughter, Martha, let us know she was planning to move back to South Africa from Switzerland. Now I also miss my kids and my grandkids and so, not even thinking of flowers, I planned a trip to help her pack up their things. And lo and behold, along with the special-ness of seeing Martha and Pieter and Daniel and Stian and Megan, I also got to see tulips and forsythia and daffodils and had a wonderful time. I also saw more banana boxes than I ever care to see again...just kidding!!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Would you like a coffee?

Welcome back. I talked with one of my sisters the other day and she thought I was still in Liberia. Since we have been in Benin now for 2 months, I realized I'd better do some communicating.
Thanks for sticking with me. Would you like a coffee? One of the fun things I do on board once or twice a week is work in our Starbucks Cafe on board. It really is Starbucks and I think at the moment it may be the only one in Benin...or West Africa.

So...I am back. It is hard to know where to start after 3 months. Where does the time go?