All comments contained within this blog are my personal observations while serving on the M/V Africa Mercy. They are not the views or opinions of Mercy Ships or partner ministries.»

Monday, February 25, 2008

Little girl lost.

I have to tell you, I am not writing this blog so much for all of you reading it as I am writing it for myself. In all my travels, I have never written down my experiences and even though this takes a couple of hours a night to do, I have enjoyed my time in my little office here on board the M/V Africa Mercy writing my thoughts. I have looked at previous posts and once I look past all my grammatical and spelling errors, I like being able remember what I felt at a moment in my life. Not all of them happy, but the people I am writing about are real and just as they were real when our paths in this life crossed, they will live forever in my mind. Sometimes I wish I could forget, but there they are, just as vivid as if I were sticking my head into a time machine.

Today my mind added another visitor that had taken up residence in my thoughts. She is a little girl of only fifteen years old. I met Alica late this morning when I went to the dock to see if there were any stories that just had to be told. Her story yelled at me.

I knew there was a Maxillofacial patient being admitted today for surgery tomorrow. However, I thought it was a man in his mid-thirties. Since I have been following an adult in my first story, I really wanted to tell the story of a child. Instead of finding a man with a growth on his face that needed to be removed, I found a petite little girl sitting in the orientation meeting.

Inside the tent on the dock where admissions takes place Alica was sitting with her back to me. She barely sat tall enough for her shoulders to clear the back of the chair. It was only when she turned to her right to look at her mother that I saw why she had come to the M/V Africa Mercy. Her bottom jaw was virtually non-existent.

I have learned in my time here that it is not in the heat of the moment that I break down. I can stay focused on the task before me pretty well. It is only after the fact when something small will trigger the flood of emotions to breach the wall I had built to hold back the tears.

I filmed her and her mother as they listened to the translator inform the group of surgical patients gathered around what was going to happened to them. Every once in a while, Alica would glance towards her mother for reassurance.

I filmed what I needed and after all of the patients had been escorted out of the tent to wait in the plastic chairs outside in the shade, I approached Alica and her mother. I told them I would like to tell her story so that others would be able to be helped by Mercy Ships. I added that she is important and so is her story.

I had confirmed earlier that they had signed the consent form to be filmed and photographed, but I always want them to know why we do this. We don't do this to humiliate them. For some, like Alica, humiliation has been the only thing they have known and that is not our intent at all. It is to give glory to God for his amazing provision, not only for the ship, but for the people of the country we are there to serve.

I followed Alica into the belly of the ship to finish answering some health questions and did a bit of filming, but left after a short period of time because I did not want to hamper the interviewer from getting correct information.

It was then back out to the tent for some blood to be drawn by a nurse and a physical by Dr. Peggy, she is Dr. Mark's wife.

After the physical was complete, a terrified little girl clung to here mommas belly as her arm was stuck to draw a small amount of blood for testing. There were not a lot of tears streaking down her check when she pulled from her mothers side. I think I would have felt better had she flat out cried, but all there was was one big tear. It is almost as though she tried to do what I do and pinch them back, but one crept through her defenses.

At one point prior to this I had asked her if she was frightened. She shook her head, but I could see it in her eyes. I told her that it is perfectly fine to be frightened, but that she would be taken care of. When I asked her again, she admitted she was afraid.

We headed back into the hospital ship down to the ward to get her settled in. Her eyes became wide as she looked around her. Just as we came to the ward, they wheeled in an older gentleman who was just coming from the recovery room after having surgery on his back.

When I thought her eyes could not get any wider, she surprised me. Just as her bottom jaw was retracting towards her neck, her eyes protracted trying to process all she was seeing before her.

She stood in the middle of the room as they moved the man from the gurney to his bed. I just wanted to hug her and comfort her.

The nurse came over and showed her which bed would be here for her stay with us. Both her and her mother sat down at the same time as though joined at the hip. Her mother was better at hiding her fear, but it was on her face just the same.

After the nurse left, the two of them sat there. Looking around, trying to become invisible but knowing this would mean a new life for Alica.

I saw down in the ward for a couple of hours waiting for Dr. Mark to come in for the pre-op talk. While I waited, I was blessed to be able to observe some of the amazing things that happen on the ward.

As I told her at the first of todays entry, I store things up and then one small thing will condense me into a weeping pile of muck. I am so amazing that I have to job I have. I have the honor and privilege to follow a patient from beginning to completion. I am looking forward to the latter part of the process, because it will be seeing how patients change over the process. Not physically, but emotionally.

If you have not read Dr. Mark's blog, please do so. I told you about Emmanuel, the cleft lip patient and Mark picks up that story. It brought a tear to my eye when I read his description of worship on the ward yesterday. I cried because I heard it, but did not go down.

I also saw the interaction between patients. The new ones, the ones waiting for surgery that day and those who were now recovering from their surgery.

There was little Roger, in for a double cleft pallet, and Charles the older gentleman and Catherine waiting for her surgery. There was another young man, I didn't see his name, but he was had just had a hernia repaired. As he lay in bed not moving, he pulled out his little "New Testament" and started reading it. What a joy!!! It was quite a sight, not only because of what he was reading, but also because of what was sitting on his lap. A hand made teddy bear with the words, "Jesus Loves You" written across his belly. He did not play with it, but neither was it placed out of view in his bag. It is a very tender picture.

Dr. Mark walked in and after checking on his post-op patients, he went to see Alica and her mother. He looked at her mouth and asked her mother if she had any questions. She did something most of us in the first world don't do, asked questions. She was concerned that Alica would not be able to open her mouth. Mark answered her questions and her mother told him that she needed to return home to her other three children.

Out of necessity, a mother had no choice but to leave her eldest child in the hands of strangers. I cannot imagine what either of them are going through tonight, but neither of them have left my thoughts all evening.

So, tomorrow I will go into the OR with Alica and film some of her surgery. Please, pray for her, her mother and her three siblings at home. There is a major change coming to this little family. A family where a little girl who was lost will soon be found.

As always,