Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Year in Books

I LOVE to read!  The story goes, that I was only able to get my own library card when I could write my name.  So, at the age of 18 months I wrote my name in giant toddler letters and opened my own library account. 
Every week we would walk the two blocks down to where the Bookmobile would arrive and we'd exchange the bag full of books for another collection of Ezra Jack Keats ("mine favorite author") and go home to devour them.

I always remember having book bags bulging full.  Even on road trips I'd have a bag full of books to help the miles pass quicker.  Some of my closest friends were George, Babar and Corduroy.

30 item limits at the library make me feel constrained.

So, it goes without saying that seeing the library here onboard the AFM made my heart leap.  With 1000 new crew members every year we end up with a pretty decent collection of hand-me-down books.  And even though we're living life in a different way than before, I still find the time to recharge with a book.

I started keeping track of our readings this year in my journal.  Not only do I read for myself, but I also read aloud to the girls at bedtime.  It's not unusual for me to have five or six books going at the same time. 

Sometimes I get to the end of a book and feel disappointment that it came to an end.  Sometimes, I feel relief. (I usually feel committed enough to finish a book - though this year I have added the freedom to walk away if I really can't get into it by halfway).  Other times I am inspired to change my life, my behavior, my thought patterns, or my future.

Once I find a book that I can't stop thinking about, I want to share that treasure.  I recently was introduced to Good Reads, an amazing book lover's website that can provide suggestions for you based on your interests, books you've enjoyed, and you can see what your friends are reading.  If this list leaves you hungry for more, check it out.  I had been wanting to do a Book blog post even prior to finding Good Reads, so here are my favorite reads from the past 12 months:

Books on Africa:
Kisses from Katie by Katie DavisA-mazing!  This book is still rocking my world as the account of a 19-year old who went to Uganda on a trip, and Uganda took over her heart and Jesus is changing her world.  A book that inspires me, challenges me, and makes me wonder what is next. 

The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinki - fascinating memoirs of a Polish journalist who traveled throughout Africa for 30 years.  Lots of insight into life in Africa.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill - a novel that reads like a historical biography of one woman's journey through slavery, starting in the region around Sierra Leone, traveling to the Western Hemisphere, and her return back to Africa at the end of her life.

(I didn't read this one this past year, but it's worth mentioning since we are on the theme...) Ishmael Beah's account of life as a child soldier in the civil war of Sierra Leone in A Long Way Gone is well worth the read.

The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara is another account of being a child in the civil war of Sierra Leone.  The writing is simple and childlike, but appropriately so, as you can envision Mariatu as the child she was at the time of her trauma.

My Seventh Monsoon by Naomi Reed - a woman's journey on missions - before children, and what it looks like with a family also as they learn to live and love in the Himalayas as a family.

Jungle Child by Sabine Kuegler - a story of a missionary child and her family's journey and her own struggle to identify which culture she belongs in.

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo - true story of a boy's journey to heaven and back.  I enjoyed this one much more than The Boy Who Went to Heaven, though they both have much of the same content (and their marketing campaign makes them look like the same book!).

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller - lessons about life, a sequel to Blue Like Jazz and the journey of it becoming a movie, and Donald letting go of what he envisioned.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch - lessons learned and shared for his family when the author (professor at Carnegie Mellon) learns that the end of his life here is near.

Making Jesus Lord by Loren Cunningham goes beyond the salvation of Jesus to model what it looks like to be a servant of Christ, written by the incredibly humble founder of Youth With A Mission.

The Classics:

 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  This is a classic for a reason!
The characters pop off the page within the first three paragraphs and I was hooked.  Oh, Scarlett, you are a piece of work! I don't know why it took me so long to find this one on the shelves.  

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy- drama, scandal, family strain in the backdrop of 19th century Russia. This is timeless literature I was thrilled to discover.

Children's Literature (favorite Read Alouds from this year):

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien is a delightful read with many lessons that translate to human life about the rat race we subject ourselves to.

The Bear Nobody Wanted by Janet & Allan Ahlberg - a sweet journey of a bear as he gets over his conceited ways and realize what it means to be loved, similar to Velveteen Rabbit or The Incredible Journey of Edward Tulane.

The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting was virtually NOTHING like the Dr. Doolittle movies that we have seen with Eddie Murphy - great children's fiction at it's best (ranked up there with Pippi Longstocking and Swiss Family Robinson).
Fiction: Action: 

 Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins.  I know there's a lot of hype about the movie coming out, but this trilogy is worth the read (well, at least the first two - the third drug on a bit).


Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (this is a movie, too! I'm a little behind- I just heard about the book a few months ago!)  Similar to Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List, a moving story about German Occupied Paris and what happened to the children there during Vel D'hiv.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is a beautiful story of three generations and the mysteries that link them together despite the time gap.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows (movie also in the works!!) is a delightful read about life in the Channel Islands during WWII and how the small community coped (and thrived).

Still Alice by Lisa Genova, a novel that reads like a true story of a brilliant woman who suffers from early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Moving, challenging (and to be honest) and a book that gives me a bit of paranoia about my brain losing it! 

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin- one of my favorite Christian authors brings another book of redemption, restitution and balance.

Check out my other favorites and make your recommendations on Good Reads!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Patients are Found

Screening day. 

As a transitory organization that meanders from country to country like a band of gypsies, we have some exceptional challenges that stationary  organizations, hospitals, and clinics don’t face.  If you are permanently at an address, those with medical needs come to you.  They know where you can be found. 

Word gets out – and spreads its way across the nation like oxygenated blood – flowing through the rainforests, across the savanna, and from person to person through the endless transactions of water sachets, motorbike taxi rides, rice and street meat purchases.

Mercy Ships has to make the most of our time by getting the word out quickly in hopes to be able to complete all steps during our short stay:  locate the patients, assess their medical condition, match them up with our surgical schedule, perform the operation, allow them time to have therapy, heal and recover before we head on our way to the next port.

Mass screening day has become a very key component in this process.  Using several radio stations, we attempt to get the word out quickly and to as many as possible providing the answers to all the questions.

Last Wednesday, February 1st was the day we had been preparing for.
The first crew left the ship the day before – we set up the chairs, tables, walked through the logistics of the stations, what if scenarios, and began final preparations.

Wednesday morning departures started at 4:00am, while it was still dark.  Even with abbreviated sleep, the excitement and anticipation for the day was palpable.
We drove in convoy formation through the town and arrived shortly after 5:00 in the morning.  The line of people who waited over night numbered in the thousands already.

Each crew member knew where they were to report, and we made our way to our stations.

 Even us non-medical people have a place at screening day - data entry is an important step in the process as they are issued their patient ID numbers, given a card with their information on it that allows them entrance into the port.
The Gendarme are present to assist with security.

And as the sun comes up, the line continues to grow.  An estimated 3500 in total were queued.


Our own crew helped with security (as well as a little entertainment).  In the case of this little girl, she was terrified of this big YOVO (white man).




 Keith is the man at the gate - with the little paper ticket they prove they entered through the appropriate gate (an issue we worried about since the entire perimeter has a short fence and could have been breached easily).


 While they wait in line, the kids receive special attention- bubbles, chalk, drawings, puppets and the like.

Water is distributed to all waiting in line - Coca-Cola West Africa partnered with us for this event and provided 3000 bottled waters to collaborate with us.

Dan was in charge of overseeing all medical logistics for the day - a big job with lots of people to manage.

  •  Pre-pre-screeners: work the line outside of the stadium compound identifying those with conditions we are unable to treat.
  • Pre-screeners: once they come into the gate, they are assessed by a medical team to determine if this condition is something we are equipped and able to address.
  • Registration: working with the help of translators, we record each potential patient’s personal contact information.

  • Histories: nurses work with our translators to take medical assessments of each patients – blood pressure, temperature, pulse, history of the illness/condition.

  • Specialities:  the patients are sent to their respective areas – maxillo-facial tumors, cleft lips/palates, or bumps head to the Max-Fax Room, burn victims or those with keloids to the Plastics Room, hernias, goiters and lipomas to the General Surgeon’s Room, and women with vaginal fistulas were directed to the VVF Room. In each of these rooms they are seen by surgeons and or doctors who are further able to determine the need for surgery, cause of condition, and what the next step of treatment should be.


 Another potential stop after the speciality surgeons is the lab - some blood is drawn on site and taken back to the ship's lab with the next returning vehicle for it to be processed.  



Biopsies are another crucial step in determining if the tumor or growth is something we are able to treat.  In a regular sized hospital you may do 1-2 biopsies a day.  Our team did 40 on screening day!


While many people come with medical issues not visible on the surface, others are obvious.  For some, coming to screening is the bravest thing they have done in years - hiding behind the curtains of pitch black night, foraging for food in the dark, and staying out of sight for shame of their condition.





Also onsite were our photographers, videographer, and writers as a big part of Mercy Ships is getting the word OUT so people can help share the burden.


Baby Simi Julie getting ready for her pre-operation photo.

She's gorgeous, cleft lip or not.  (She's actually already had her surgery!)


Unfortunately, we are not able to help everyone.  First, we have limits on time, space, surgical schedule, and specialties.  We will never be able to operate on all the hernias we see in a country.  The list is just far too great.  Some people present with malignant tumors, and we do not have the resources for chemo or radiation on the ship so we must refer them to outside sources.  Others have extreme conditions that surgery cannot address. 
At any point in this process, if the answer is “no surgery,” we inform the hopeful patient and direct them toward the prayer team, waiting with open arms to pray for them, embrace them, and love on them. 

But for those that we can schedule, these are the beautiful faces that greet them - our OR supervisors who take those blessed "pink sheets" and transfer the information into the master schedule of our six operating rooms - coordinating surgeons and their specialties, ward bed space, nursing staff, anesthesiologists, and physical time in the OR to make it all happen.


So, we do what we we do with gladness...
Sunburn, and tired feet...

...and still some cousinly smiles at the end of the day...
...making sure no one gets left behind when all the vehicles depart.


For the chance to bring about a new way of life for her.

And him.

And him.

And him.

And this family too.