Patient Story

Hello all. I know that I have not posted in awhile and I apologize for that. I thought you might want to meet some of the patients that we have helped this field service. The story posted below was written by one of our lovely writers on board the ship. Miss you all and please continue to keep us in your prayers.


 

High up Mount Manengouba in Cameroon, through rocky terrain and lush foliage, lies the beautiful village of Bororos. The journey to Bororos consists of a steep, uphill horse ride surrounded by craggy rocks with only wildlife for company. But two little girls, sisters Salamatou and Mariama, had never left their village high in the hills of Cameroon because of their twisted legs.

The six and eight year old sisters didn’t get the important nutrients they needed during crucial years of bone development. Without strong bones, the pressure of walking caused their legs to grow incorrectly, resulting in a condition called Valgus. Because of their malformed legs, they both found it difficult to walk to school, and only sometimes managed to attend. Their malnutrition, combined with an inability to access surgery, meant Salamatou and Mariama had to learn to cope with their twisted legs.

Their parents felt guilty when they first knew something was not right. “I felt bad that we did not have any money to take them to the hospital,” recalled their mother, Mymoona. “I was worried about them and their future. If I didn’t do anything, I knew they would have a hard time in life.”

Mymoona was so worried about her daughters that it began to take a toll on her health. So when her husband, Debo, heard about Mercy Ships, he led all three of his girls down the mountain on horseback, making the brave journey to the coast. They were grateful to have each other as they arrived at a ship they had only heard stories about.

“We didn’t know the hospital was actually in the ship. We’ve never been to a ship before,” said Debo. “When I first came I was afraid for my girls, but then I saw many children like them and the fear went away.”

The sisters’ almost identical conditions enabled the whole family to stay together after they were approved for surgery. With their family by their side, Salamatou and Mariama began to soak in their new surroundings and prepare for the operation that would change the course of their lives.

The first day after their surgeries, Salamatou was up and walking around, challenging her sister, who was convinced the straightened casts didn’t contain her own legs. Clutching at the familiarity of her toes, Mariama watched her older sister stand tall. Soon, their strong personalities were evident as they each watched competitively to see what the other was achieving.

Their sibling rivalry throughout recovery encouraged growth as they competed with one another to reach each healing milestone. Who would stand up first? Who could walk the furthest? “They were encouraging each other during their time on the ship,” recalls Debo. “One day, Salamatou said to her younger sister, ‘Because you never smile, I will walk before you…’ And she did! This motivated Mariama in her healing.”

During their rehabilitation exercises, their parents learned about the importance of nutrition. The ship’s dietician gave them valuable information about crucial nutrients, like calcium, before sending the family on their way with plenty of vitamins to aid the girls’ healing.

“They told us about the importance of eggs, fish, and vegetables,” said Mymoona. “We will be sure to tell the other families in the village so it can help us all.”

Volunteer Physiotherapist Meg Crameri worked with the girls during their rehab sessions. She hopes this nutritional advice will be shared to help other families whose children might otherwise end up suffering with similar conditions.

“If you are from a poorer area where nutrition isn’t a top priority, then it’s not surprising that this occurs,” said Crameri. “One of the big ways we can change that is by making sure they do it right when they go back home.”

Salamatou and Mariama returned to Bororos with newly straightened legs! And Debo and Mymoona returned ready to share what they had learned about nutrition during their time on the Africa Mercy.

“The route down the mountain was too much for the girls before, and I thought they would never go down. Their lives are far better now, far improved,” said Debo. “Now, they will be able to commit to school and use their education. Before, my heart was anxious for my family, but now I am content.”

Written by: Georgia Ainsworth

Photos by: Shawn Thompson and Saul Loubassa Bighonda

Edited by: Karis Johnson

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Sisters Salamatou and Mariama had never left their village in the mountains before coming to the Africa Mercy due to the pain of walking on their windswept legs

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At just six and eight years old, they had already started missing school because the walk was too much for them.

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Despite the risks, the sisters and their family made the brave journey to the ship, taking the girls further than they’d ever been before.

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Pediatric patients are only allowed one caregiver on the ship, so the sisters’ almost identical conditions allowed the whole family to stay together.

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“We didn’t know the hospital was actually in the ship. We’ve never been to a ship before,” said their father, Debo. “When I first came, I was afraid for my girls, but then I saw many children like them and the fear went away.”

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The sibling rivalry throughout Salamatou and Mariama’s recoveries encouraged growth. Who would stand up first? Who would walk the furthest? The competition was born!

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Their strong, beautiful personalities shone through their smiles as they became known on the wards for their competitive spirits.

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The day they had their casts removed, volunteer Physiotherapist Ashley Cruttenden watched the girls examine their new legs — now straightened and ready to grow strong!

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“Because you never smile, I’m going to walk before you!” said Salamatou (left) to motivate her little sister, Mariama, as they competed in rehab to reach each milestone.

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Following the weeks of rehabilitation, the family made the journey home. They were excited for their healed legs and to share all they had learned about the importance of nutrition with others in their village!

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“The route down the mountain was too much for them before, I thought they would never go down,” said their father, Debo. “Their lives are far better now, far improved.”

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Their competitive bond continued long after they were home. The girls enjoyed racing each other — finally participants in the games they’d spent hours watching before their surgeries.

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Now free to run and walk without the pain of twisted legs, Salamatou and Mariama have expanded their horizons to include a world of opportunities.

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“Before, my heart was anxious for my family,” said Debo. “Now, I am content.”

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A Few Words

I am officially back at work. After three weeks of seeing family and friends I am behind the reception desk once again. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to spend time with people I hadn’t seen in over a year. So thank you family and friends for making my time at home so lovely.

The ship is still transforming lives on a daily basis and I love getting to witness that. Here are a few pictures of some of our patients.

 

It has been fun to get to see the reception team again though some of them left while I was away. We get to welcome a couple new receptionist soon which I am excited about. With each new receptionist our group grows and changes. I am always sad to say good-bye to the ones that leave, but also excited to welcome the new ones to the team. Please continue to pray for this team. Pray that we would love and serve the crew and Christ well. Thank you for all your support and prayer. I could not do this without it.

More updates to come, I promise. I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for making my time at home so great. I felt so loved and cared for. I miss you all lots.

 

2017

The year is almost at a close and I am amazed at where the Lord has taken me. From Texas in January to Douala in December I am increasingly surprised at the Lord’s prevision. This year has been a ruler coaster of emotions and experiences. If I had to pick a word that describes my year it would have to be the word change. There is a saying on the ship, “The only constant on the ship is change.” Some changes were harder then others, but in change brings an opportunity to grow.

January thru March was an extreme amount of transition. I moved back home, sold lots of personal items, said good-bye to lots of friends, left for on-boarding, and then left for the ship. I was dealing with a lot of unknowns at that time. What would the ship be like? Would I make friends? What was I doing? So many questions with very few answers. I was sure it was going to be an adventure that I would not regret, but so uncertain about what the Lord was going to do at that time.

April thru June was a time of adventure. I made a great group of friends and we did some amazing things. We went to Togo and Ghana. In Ghana we got to do a canopy walk which was beautiful. On this trip I took my first motorcycle taxi and LOVED it. We ate good food and explored. In June I experienced my first sail on the ship. Sailing has quickly became one of my favorite experiences. Though I still haven’t seen anything other flying fish. I think I may just have bad luck. Once we got to Las Palmas we got to explore the Island. Renting cars and driving to small towns and listening to music are some of my best memories.   I said good-bye to a lot of friends at this time and started to make some new ones.

July thru September was a time of preparation. I got to spend a week with Veronica in the U.K. It was relaxing and calm, which is just what I needed right before a new field service. It was also cold and raining. I miss the cold weather. We had a second sail. I learned how to use a map at sea and again saw only flying fish in the water.  We celebrated Daniela’s birthday. We celebrated my birthday with Peruvian food. It was so yummy. Thank you Anita for introducing me to such wonderful food. The field service in Cameroon started and a whole new team of receptionist joined the ship. The team is so diverse this field service and I love it. It has been so fun to get to know all of them. I’ve enjoyed exploring Douala and seeing a new culture. The first patience came on board at this time and I got to see people leave the ship transformed.

October thru December has been a crazy busy time. We are in full swing with surgeries and the other projects that we have going on in Cameroon. One of my favorite moments is seeing patients walk through reception before and after their surgeries. The reception team is starting to feel like a team again. It takes a bit longer with our department because receptionist are never on the desk together. A couple of friends and I were able to take a trip to Kribi and have a relaxing weekend by the beach. Christmas is only a couple of weeks away and it is a bit strange to think about. Christmas decorations have been going up all over the ship. We decorated the Purser’s door with the Grinch and receptionist elves.  I had my first Thanksgiving away from home and Christmas will be the same. There are a lot of activities on board and many crew members say Christmas is their favorite time on the ship. I miss my family, but am looking forward to experiencing Christmas in a different culture.

I am looking forward to next year. I will be home in February for a visit. I am hoping that 2018 brings continued provision for the ship. That the Lord makes his presence know to the crew and that the crew would draw close to the Lord. Thank you for your continued prayer for the crew and patients, it makes a difference.

Perspective

This last month has been a more difficult one.  But I feel my perspective changing. The longer I focus on the difficult things on the ship the more I miss all that the Lord continues to do here. The more I look around the more I notice how the ship not only changes patient lives, but crews lives as well. I have seen crew members grow and become more confident along side the patients we are here to help. I feel different as well. I still have lots to work on, but the ship has taught me a couple things along the way. So thank you. Thank you for supporting me in prayer. Thank you for sending care packages and letters.

I will post a longer update soon. I just wanted to thank you and let you know that I could not do this without you. Please continue praying for the ship. Please pray that we would love and serve the people of Cameroon well, that we would love and serve each other well, and that we would find times of rest in the busyness of the ship.

It’s Official.

 

Most of you will have seen this post on my Facebook already, but it’s official. The M/V Africa Mercy will be my home till 2019. It’s a bit scary, but I am very excited about staying on the ship.

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Surgeries have started and it has been so fun to see patients as they come on board and leave after surgery. I hopefully will be getting off ship to visit the HOPE centre soon. It is were patients can live while they continue the recovery process.  I was able to visit in Benin and really enjoyed my time. Many of my friends have gone here and have loved the experience.

Now that the hospital is up and running we have many new crew members on board. We have many new nurses and surgeons on the ship as well as new Housekeepers, engineers, and receptionist. It has been fun to see how the Lord uses different skills to further his kingdom.  I love how multicultural the reception team has become. We have a Canadian, two Brits, a Beninois, and an Aussie. It is often this way on the ship. My group of friends all come from different places and have different backgrounds, but we are all here with the same purpose. We want to be part of something that is bigger then ourselves. We want people to know the love of Jesus and experience physical healing. Each has a different role that helps create the whole.

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Almost every single member of the crew. The people in the white shirts in the front are the reception team.
Often times you will find my little group of friends in the dining room late into the night. We have a table that we have claimed as our own. The tea table as I call it is a place we talk about life, Jesus, and the ship. (And drink tea. Tea has become a very important part of our conversations.) It’s only the beginning of the field service and we have already had many conversations around this table. There is nothing special about it. It looks like every other table in the dining room. The only difference is the people that sit around it with me. We tend to giggle (a lot), but we also have conversations that remind me why I am here. Conversations that remind me of the Character of God and what he has done for me. Even though it is still the beginning of the field service when I think about my time in Cameroon one of the images that will come to mind is the tea table.

If you remember a couple of weeks ago I posted a picture of the first patient coming on board before surgery on my Facebook. As surgeries continue please pray for the recovery process that many go through. Thank you for your prayers and support. I am so thankful that I get to be involved in this. 

If you are interested in seeing some of the patient transformations you can follow the field service on Instagram @mercyships.

Hello From Douala, Cameroon!

Hello from Douala, Cameroon! This will be the third country we have been to in three months. (Four for me if you count my visit with Veronica.)  The changes have been swift and constant. I am very excited to settle in one place for a bit.

The last couple of months have been a little overwhelming. There has been a lot of transition and change here. As I sat in reception this week and the first couple of patients came on board it made it all worth it. I was reminded why I am here. Not only to do a job, but to love people. It is easy to get caught up in the work and deadlines and forget that. So the Lord was reminding me that my first job is to love those around me well. For this field service that is my goal. To love and support the reception team well, that they may love and support the crew well.

I’ve done a bit of exploring in Douala. We have found food that is amazing and walked done streets that are new to us. The hospital was open the other night for crew to explore. I got to walk through the O.R.s that where our patients will have surgery and through the wards where the patients will recover. They told me my blood type in the lab. I am A+ if you are curious. One of the most amazing things on the ship is that the crew is the blood bank. Crew volunteer to give blood and if they need your blood type they will come find you and ask you to give that day. You get to meet the person that your blood helped saved.

We also had a dessert night with friends. We divided people up into teams of two and they had to provide the dessert and entertainment for the night. Below is a picture of what one of the teams made. The in the dessert is the country each individual was from. Some of my friends had two or three flags in their desserts.

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They made a lemon tart dessert and pavlova. It was very yummy. For our night we made no bake cheesecake and I taught everyone the paper game (Picture Telephone). Such a fun game to play.

My boss has asked me to extend my time on the ship. I am in the process of praying and planning for this. If it is approved I will be on the ship for an additional 11 months. It is a bit scary to commit for that long, but I feel this is where the Lord is leading me. I enjoy my time on the ship. It can often be tiring and difficult, but there are great moments as well. I have met people that have poured into my life. People that love Jesus and love those around them.

This is not a comprehensive photo list of those people, but I tried my best with the time and internet I had.

I have had experiences that only come from stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself. I have relearned what living in constant community looks like. I think we all have an idealized view of this. The Lord continues to remind me that community can be difficult, but so worth it. That serving others is better then serving ourselves. That living in grace and loving him is where true faith begins. Please be praying that I will make time for him, that I will love others well, and that wherever I am after March I will rest in His plan.

Meet the Reception Team

Disclaimer: This blog post has been sitting in my post pending box for weeks. In the craziness of life I have gone a bit radio silent and I apologize for that. Sometimes there were good reasons for it like the internet was not working and sometimes life was just busy and crazy. So here is a blog that is way late.

 

Hello from shipyard. The ship is still out of water and hopefully going back to water soon. There has been lots of work and noise since we have been here. Reception has been busy with new team members coming and going. There is a constant flow of people. I thought you may want to meet some of the people that I get to work with on a daily basis.

Reception crew members in front of the Africa Mercy

Above is a picture of the Purser-Reception team. The team is constantly changing. Three of these lovely ladies have already left. By September there will be a whole new team here with me. Our team has also grown during shipyard. We have added a gentleman to our ranks, an OR nurse, and a lovely lady from the Medical Capacity Building team. Some departments close during the sail and shipyard and I get the privilege to work with some of them in Reception when this happens. Currently our team is made up of nine people from six different countries.

I have enjoyed getting to know each person on the team. Sometimes I find myself standing at the reception desk at midnight just chatting and laughing with the poor soul that got stuck on night shift. Did I mention that I make the schedule.

During the sail there was a party in Reception, which is usually not allowed as everyone has to be quiet in Reception. Everyone danced and made as much noise as possible. There was even a photo booth.

Reception

 

Reception can be very busy with arrivals and departures, the fire panel, and answering a million and one questions, but I love it. I love working with the team. Monday to Friday I get to spend the day with two of the receptionist on desk. We not only get to work together, but I get to know them pretty well. That tends to happen when you spend three to six hours a day with someone. Some are just starting university, while others are part way through it. Hanna is almost done with nursing school and has talked about coming back to the ship as a nurse. She keeps me on my toes with all her sass. Anita will be transferring back to the OR soon. We will miss her on our team. Others Like Tsiferana have already gone back to heir department and we miss them as well. I have two other receptionist that will be going home soon to their own grand adventures and someone new will come to start their own adventure here.

Change Happens

If you haven’t guessed from my social media we are no longer in Benin. We had a 11 day sail and are now in Las Palmas on the Canary Islands. It was the first time that I have ever sailed on a ship and I loved it. Praise the Lord for no sea sickness. The views were amazing. It was pretty crazy to see everything that has to go into sailing a ship. The sail was a good reminder of just how big the world is. When I looked around and could only see the ocean I was reminded of just how small I am and how big God is.

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Photo Credit: Joni

There were activities on the ship every night. One of them was a scavenger hunt and we won. (Everyone knows I am not a very competitive person. Haha)

We are now in shipyard, more specifically dry dock. For the next couple of weeks the ship will be out of the water and being repaired. It’s pretty amazing to see the ship out of water. As they work through the list of repairs that have to be done my normal changes once again. It is loud, smelly and often hot as the air conditioner is not running. Part of me is really enjoying it. Its exciting to see all the changes that are taking place and all the people that give their time to make it happen. There is still work to be done in reception. There is always paperwork no matter where we are located.

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I’ve been able to explore the island a bit and it is beautiful. On Saturday we drove around, stopped in small villages, and ate some very yummy food. As we drove we listened to music and enjoyed ourselves. It was a nice last little adventure with many of my friends before they left. We found the most beautiful village that we just walked around. If you look at the picture closely you can see the little Fiat Panda that we rented. (It’s the first car in the row.) It was a bit slow and rundown, but in a lovable kind of way.

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Beautiful village pictured here.

Good-byes are probably my least favorite thing about living on this ship. I have already said many good-byes and still have many more to come. I am so thankful to be here and experience this world in such a unique way. Thank you to all the friends that I have met on the ship for showing me how wonderful the world can be.

 

Life and Work

So many of you have been asking what I do for work. Well, here goes nothing. My official title is Head Receptionist. I am often the first face that crew see when they complete a 24 hour journey and step on board.  I mostly work with crew and the other receptionist to make sure everyone gets the information and paperwork they need. I often spend my days behind a desk and in front of a computer. I like administration. I love spreadsheets and color coding. If you don’t believe me just take me to any office supply store and watch how excited I get. I wear a uniform everyday.

One of the best things about working behind the reception desk is you get to interact with so many different people. Often times you learn people’s names very quickly. When there are over 30 nationalities on board you get to learn a lot. I have started saying things differently. (Sorry Veronica for all the times I made fun of your word choice.) I have started using words like rubbish and lift. I still haven’t figured out how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and use google often when talking about the temperature outside.

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Out of this group only two (one of them being me) are from the USA.

We are already starting to say our good-byes as people start to go home. That is why most of us are making sad faces.  This picture was taken right before we left on a trip to Ghana and two of our friends were going home. (New blog post to come about the trip.) It has been a good time of talking about life, Jesus, and learning about others cultures.

This isn’t the typical missionary story and I am okay with that. Every department on the ship is vital and necessary.  Without many of the departments on board we wouldn’t be able to run the hospital. We wouldn’t have stories of hope and healing and patients lives wouldn’t be changed. It takes people from different backgrounds and different jobs to make a floating hospital work and work well. I am so thankful that the Lord has given me this opportunity. I get to serve him in one of the most unique organizations, with some of the best people, and in a job that I really enjoy.

So thank you for all your prayers and support. Thank you for letting me see where the Lord is taking me on this journey. Love you all and miss you.

Also love you mom. I hope yesterday was great!!

Preparing for Change

The last couple of weeks the Lord has been pretty present. He is always present, I know, but recently I feel that he is making himself more known. That could be because I am making a more intentional effort recently to spend time in the word. Who would have thought? All sarcasm aside I feel he reminding me that he is enough. When times are stressful, God is enough. When I am wondering why he allows pain in the world, he is good. When I am having a deep conversation about life with friends, he is the bases of that friendship. How often I miss him because I am not looking for the Lord, but for the good things that he can provide me.

Since Easter he reminds me that he is the source of all wholeness. I still doubt, stress, and cry out over confusion. I still look at situations and wonder why he has allowed it, but I remind myself that the Lord is GOOD. Easter was a lovely time on the ship. Service was a time of rejoicing and celebration. The God of the universe provided a way for us to know him personally.

The Lord continues to stretch and grow me. It’s not always easy, but it is always necessary. This week I find myself tired. It’s been a full and busy week, but I am so glad that I am here. I know that change is coming and I pray that when it does come that I handle it with grace. I stood on the dock last night and said good-bye to a friend. As a stood there I realized that this is going to become a constant in my life. Saying good-bye is something I will have to get use to, but I don’t want to become numb to it. Many of my friends will be leaving this month. I’ve only known them a short time, but being here is like being in a pressure cooker. You need community to get through the times when you are tired, struggling, and weak. You bond quickly with your people here and equally as fast you say good-bye to them.

So that is where I am. I am trying to stand in the Lord’s presence and gear up for the change that he is bringing my way. The Lord has provided for me before and he will continue to do so now!