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.»

Thursday, February 21, 2008

To heal...

...sometimes blood must be shed!!!

This is what happens for the patients of the M/V Africa Mercy. I am not only speaking of their blood; I am also speaking of the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for them.

Today I was deeply honored to have seen patients physical conditions being made right. I was able to film two surgeries today and let me tell you, I walked out of the first surgery energized. The outreach has really switched into high gear and I am right in the heart of it, in more ways than one.

After devotions this morning, Debra took me down to the hospital deck and began to show me around a bit and introduce me to some of the nurses and translators. There were three patients in the ward that we spent most of our time in. One of them was a young man here to receive surgery this afternoon for a cleft lip.

Emmanuel was on the first bed as you walked into the ward and he was laying on his side with his arm shielding his mouth. Debra walked over to him and introduced the two of us. After extending her hand to his, he greeted her with a Liberian handshake. If our handshake in America is dinner, then in a Liberian handshake you receive dinner and dessert.

The handshake starts out like ours, but at the end instead of just letting go, each person grabs the others middle finger and they 'snap'. That is how they break their grip. Liberians do not consider the handshake complete until that snap is done. I am still working on my snap, so I think mine is more like dinner and a cookie, not quite a full dessert.

After the introductions, Emmanuel draped his arm over his mouth again and was quiet the remainder of our time on the ward. He looked frighted and unsure of what was going to be happening to him later that day. As we left the ward, I prayed for him. I did not know that I would have the honor to pray for him once again, only this next time, there was to be no snap in our meeting. Instead, he would sleep right thought it.

Debra then took me to meet Fiona, one of the head OR people. I forget her title, I'm lucky enough to remember names at this point!! All I know is I did what she told me to do.

I came prepared to enter the O.R.. I had brought my own scrubs because I knew I would be filming surgeries and wanted to have a bit of fun. Sponge Bob Square Pants accompanied me into the O.R.. The top is purple with big hearts for Valentines Day and good ole' Bob sending various greetings like, "Happy Hearts and Bubble Day". With that top and my bright red scub pants, you would have thought I was a pro at going into the O.R..

I put blue plastic booties on over my shoes, tied a hat on my head and shaped a mask over my face to head into the unknown. You would think with all the times I have been traveling down this mysterious path of the unknown, I would know what it looks like!! But, alas I have failed to secure a map detailing these meandering roads in my life. Still, I wasn't nervous. I was quite confident there would be no need for an extra gurney to haul me out of the room.

I walked in on a surgery already in progress. Unlike walking in on a movie after it has already started, I didn't need anyone to catch me up on what was going on.

This was a Maxillo-Facial patient. This is a patient with a growth on their face somewhere that causes major deformities if not treated. In first-world countries these are taken care of when they are small and we don't let them get to the point of causing possible death, but certain shunning, like they do here in Africa.

Beatrice had a growth occurring inside on the upper left part of her mouth. When I arrived the surgery had been taking place for about 45-minutes. I started to film and was in awe of what I saw happening before me.

Dr. Gary and Dr. Mark (you can see his photo in one of my earlier entries) had already exposed the growth and it was glistening in the bright lights of the O.R. like a dew covered cherry tomato, perhaps a bit bigger. I was focused on the technical part of my job and didn't notice that it was actually hard until Mark started drilling and sawing to remove it.

Once it was free, it was dropped into a gauze lined metal bowl with a muffled clank. No sooner had the sound dissipated than Dr. Mark was back at work finished the surgery. The job was far from over.

I was very aware of all the blue items in the room and made sure I put a lot of space between us while moving about. Those are the items that are sterile. I did not want to put any patient at risk.

I pulled up a little stool on wheels and proceeded to film some amazing shots of the two surgeons transforming this patients life. It was a experience I never thought I would see in person. When she was wheeled into the O.R. she was an outcast, shunned by society and more than likely by her own family. Medical conditions such as hers are looked at as demon possession or a curse and people do not want to 'catch' it from her.

I have never been in a room when a women has given birth, but I believe todays experience is the closest thing I will ever come. She has been re-born, transformed and given the gift of life again and I was there for that moment in her life. WOW!!! I serve an almighty God who has allowed me to take part in moments like these.

Most of the time I have a tendency to discount my role. Okay, it's closer to all the time. I'm only a videographer. I only take photos. But serving on the Mercy Ship M/V Africa Mercy I am starting to see how my role is a large one.

It is through the God given skills I have that will allow the message of what Mercy Ships does to go global. No, my name is not on anything I produce. I am perfectly fine with that. I do not do this job to please man, I do it to please the Lord. If I wanted to please man I would pack up and move to Hollywood. I doubt Steven Spielberg has ever filmed a real life surgery of this magnitude. He has made millions, perhaps billions of dollars on his creations. My account is not calculated in dollars or any other currency. I cannot tell you how many lives my work will impact. I will only be shown that when I am worshiping around the Throne. For now, I look forward to telling one story at a time, because ultimately I am telling my own story of being an outcast to God, through these peoples lives. And that is better than anything I can think of. Yes, even better than a new Mac laptop.

With Beatrice's surgery over, it was now up to Nigel, the anesthesiologist to bring her out of her deep sleep. I stayed in the room, in an out of the way corner and watched as he kept watch over her. I prayed as people were preparing to move her to the recovery. I was praying that she will adjust to her new 'normal' life. Praying that her pain be mild. Praying that she know who Jesus is and what He did for her.

With Beatrice safely delivered to the recovery room, Dr. Gary and Dr. Mark and most of the others left for lunch, including myself.

I sat with Mark, (sorry Mark, I came to know you at Mark and outside the OR, you are just Mark :-), his wife Peggy and Nigel. I was on a high. I'm sure I sounded like a giddy school girl talking about some of the shots I got. I was saying things at the lunch table that were probably not appropriate, but I figured since they were Dr's it was okay.

After lunch I dropped in on another surgery. This time it was Emmanuel. Our second meeting. I stayed outside of the O.R. as they intubated him and had was once again able to pray for this frightened boy. Once he was asleep, I went in and was able to watch Dr. Mark (we're back in the O.R.) place the cutting guides on Emmanuel's face.

His lip was not an open cleft pallet, but there was enough of a deformity that it was causing him trouble in life. When he walks off this ship, a whole new world will be open to him.

I filmed the first incision to the final stitch. It wasn't a very long procedure, but the results will last a lifetime. Again, I am in the room for another re-birth.

--I had to put the blog writing aside and attended a community meeting here on the ship. Goodness, I love the Africa worship!! In a room filled with about 350 people worship the Lord, let me tell you that place ROCKS!!--

After the community meeting, Debra told me that there might be a case I could do a story on tomorrow, so we headed down to the ward to meet a child who was scheduled for surgery.

When we were down there, the child was not the one we thought it was. As Debra was talking to one of the nurses, I looked over at the first bed on the right and saw Emmanuel sitting up. He no longer felt the need to hide his face. He had a bit of swelling but he was on the road to recovery.

I also saw Beatrice. She was asleep. I pray she has a good nights sleep!

One more little observation and I will sign off. I told you I write mini novels!!!

The ward that only had three patients in it this afternoon was now filled. Not an empty bed to be found. One even had two little children sleeping in it. No, they are not putting two patients to a bed, the other little one might be a sibling.

But as I looked off to my left, I saw an older woman sitting in her bed. For some reason I am remembering her bed being a little darker than the others. She sat on her bed holding a teddy bear that was wearing a sunflower dress and matching hat. She was gently swaying back and forth and stroking this little bear. (Most of the beds in the wards have teddy bears on them.)

I could not see any physical deformities, but then again I did not really look for one. I was looking at a frightened child in a grown up body and I saw myself; I saw each and every one of us.

One phrase Jesus repeated was, "Do not be afraid".

His blood has been shed and we are healed!