03 January 2010

Ali's African Adventures

Before signing off for the day, I have to tell you about Ali.  More specifically, about her African Adventures.  I found her blog through Carolyn McCulley, I think, but I can't quite remember.  Ali is a Canadian-American RN (neonatal and pediatric ICU) who has been serving with Mercy Ships for the past two years, more recently in Benin, Africa.  My sister-in-law is an RN who also used to work in NICU (and also from Canada!), so I knew a little (uh... tiny!) bit about the work she was doing.

From Ali's intro:
"I work with... Mercy Ships on board the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship, the M/V Africa Mercy. We've got six state of the art operating theaters, an intensive care and ward bed space for up to 78 patients. Following the example of Jesus, Mercy Ships seeks to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has performed more than 32,500 surgeries. We've removed cataracts, straightened club feet and reconstructed faces. I spend my days supporting the nurses in the middle of a delightful whirl of crying babies, cast-footed kids, and even the occasional grownup."

Ali is an excellent writer and once you read one entry, you will want to keep following along as she and her husband start their third year aboard the ship.  The stories she tells about the little babies with cataracts seeing for the first time, and the 9-year-olds with debilitating scar tissue from burns finally being able to move their arms and legs in a normal way, and the women with cancer tumors on their necks coming out of surgery looking normal (and therefore acceptable again to their villages, not having to starve on the outskirts anymore), are amazing and show the work of God in a country far away.  She chronicles both the funny and the heart-wrenching moments, and I can't wait to see where the Lord leads them next.  I'll leave you with an excerpt:

"After finishing up rounds today, I headed over to B Ward to give report to the nurses working there. I was standing by the desk when I noticed the little boy in Bed 11 staring at me. It was still early in the morning, but he was clearly ready to go home; he and the brother caring for him were already dressed in matching outfits of printed cloth. I moved towards his bed and stuck out my hand in greeting. He grinned and grabbed it, shaking it hard, looking up at his brother who smiled down at him with a look of pure joy. I couldn't figure out why saying good morning was making those two so out-of-their-minds happy, but happy is better than sad, so I shrugged and turned to go. As I walked away I caught sight of the card above his bed, the one that carries all the important info about the patient.

Date of Surgery: 28 September
Type of Surgery: bilateral cataracts

My heart caught in my throat and I looked back down at the little boy, still smiling up into my face, and for the first time I noticed the telltale marks on his face where the tape had held the protective eye shields on overnight after the operation. The eye team nurse had removed them just minutes before I came into the ward, and that little boy was getting his first look at the room that had been nothing but cloudy darkness before.

For me, it was a handshake. For that little boy, it was the world."

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