Saturday, January 21, 2012

Setting Up Shop - I Mean Ship!

We are in Togo - in the not so charming and not so quaint port town (and capital) of Lomé. 
So, what are we doing if there aren't any patients?  Are we just sitting around eating bon bons?

The ship's arrival and departure times are very full of activity and work. 

Here's a look at one area that gets transformed: the dock.

This is what our dock looked like upon our arrival.

Once we are secured, the gangway must be lowered and secured to the entrance so we have a way of getting on and off.  This happens almost immediately, so we can have our welcoming ceremony with whatever officials from the country have been involved in the work- usually the Minister of Health, sometimes a Vice-President, the port authorities, etc.

Once that has taken place, we begin the unloading and unpacking.  Have you ever moved?  Do you remember how much work it is to pack up?  Well, luckily our house moves with us when we move, but the things that go on land have the same amount of work as moving house does. 

The vehicles have to be craned off of the top of the ship and put onto land.  The shipping containers and pallets loaded with the supplies that we use on the dock have to be as well. 
Last year we had a modular home that was assembled that served as our eye building and our screening facility.

This year in addition to the two Alaska tents that will house the admissions area and rehabilitation,  we have two large inflatable tents that will be home to outpatients and screening for the next five months.
First a platform had to be built with pallets and plywood to create a flat, stable surface for these tents (and a bit of protection from the rat infested dock (a port with ships coming in and out full of rice, wheat, fish, and other goodies is a rat's paradise.  That bright blue container in the back is visible from our windows and we watch the rats come out from underneath it at night!).

These guys are part of a Mercy Team.  Mercy Teams are short-term guests on the ship who come for 7-14 days with the focus of doing a special task, not just working a regular position on board.  These guys have been here three times in the past year and help us with the set up and tear down of things like the dock and the hope center.  They are true hard workers who have come wanting to put their muscles to the test.
Brainpower might be needed more than muscles to assemble these new tents - but luckily they have this too.

This looks like my worst nightmare.  These are the parts of the Alaska Tents - for those of you like Dan, this looks like a 30 minute task.  For those of you like me, this looks like tears, frustration and an endless puzzle!

Part one is done...
Part two...
And voila! The finished product.  Here are the two Alaskas...
The two inflatables, meanwhile, are being laid out and ready for the magic moment.
 And here's the final product.
A view of our dock from deck 7, right above our cabin.  The covered open air canopies is where patients will wait for their appointments.

The beautiful thing about these tents isn't the fact that they are up, but the expectations that they hold.  Hundreds of individuals from Togo and surrounding areas that make their way here in desperation will be seen by physicians to see if they are fit for a surgery that can be performed on the ship.  Those that fit the bill will be registered, informed as to what will happen here, and prepared for their time with us.  Following surgery they will be treated here - physical therapy, occupational therapy, wound care follow-up in outpatients, and more.

These tents hold a lot more than air right now.  They hold the promise and hope for a new lease on life for so many.  We are anxious to meet these precious ones.

This week we will be screening some that were on the waiting list from last year, and on Feb. 1st we will hold our mass screening downtown Lome to find the rest of those that we have the capacity to help.  Join with us in praying that those in the greatest need will make their way to the right place.

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