Thursday, July 29, 2010


This is my last week in Togo.
My last week on the Africa Mercy.
My last week working in the pharmacy.
My last fire drill was this afternoon.

Today was the last day of surgery.
Tomorrow will be the last day for the dental team.
Next week, the Oak Foundation Hospital will discharge it's last patient.

Soon enough, my last sleep on the ship will come and pass. So will the last time that I scan out and say, "Goodbye." to the Gurkhas. Soon enough, it will be the last time that I lock the door to cabin 3429. The last time I do laundry on Deck 6.

Last night was already the last time that I baked cookies. I've already attended my last hospital devotions, community devotions, auxiliary team devotions, and community meeting.

Tomorrow will be my last day of work.

Soon, I will be saying my out a few hugs...waving as the Land Rovers roll out of the port.

It seems that in this transitional community, there are so many firsts and so many lasts.

Let's just agree that this isn't "Goodbye"; it's just "Until we meet again."

A hui hou.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wee Word Wednesday - Hula Hoop

The last two Saturdays, we've had a hula hoop in our box of toys to bring to the orphanage, Maison Bethel. Now, I don't mean to brag...but once upon a time, I used to be a hula hoop champion.

I've successfully taught a few of the kids there (including my little friend, Veronica or Vero for short) how to hula hoop. I also showed them a few other tricks and fun stuff that you can do with a hula hoop. It's been a blast from the past teaching them how to do these things!

(All photos courtesy of Dr. Leo Cheung)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

What do you do?

I don't know if I've ever told you guys about a little girl named Lovelace. She was a possible patient here on the Africa Mercy back in April/May. I say possible, because at the time, all we knew is that this little 5 year old had two rapid growing tumors. She and her father came on board to see if there was any way that Mercy Ships could help them. After weeks of waiting on tissue biopsy reports to come back, the answer was "No, we can't help."

And, it's not that we didn't want to help. Little Lovelace just had a tumor that is inoperable, which leaves our hands tied in helping her, even though the desire to do so was great. In the six weeks that she was here, waiting to see what the results would be, a lot of us in the hospital fell in love with her. It was hard not to. She was quiet, but gentle and oh so very sweet. She spoke English, since she was from Ghana, which made the ability to communicate and get to know her a lot easier than it is to do with our Togolese patients, who usually speak either Ewe or French.

A drawback to her being from Ghana is that our Palliate Care Team (the nurse, Harriet, is my cabinmate) cannot go to see her. She lives about 2 hours from the ship...and in between the ship and her home is also a country line. Just a few more complications in helping this litte one...a few more reasons for people to forget about her.

Luckily, she hasn't been forgotten, and she has an amazing father who wants to make sure that she has the best care possible. If you had clicked on the link for Lovelace's name in the opening of this blog, you would've been directed to a friend's blog. Sarah is a nurse here on the Africa Mercy. She and a few of the other nurses here have been to visit Lovelace a few weeks ago, only to note that her condition has worsened. And yesterday, her father showed up on the dock, with no where else to turn to, but to us here on the Mercy Ship to help his little girl. After consulting with our newest max-fax doctor on board, we were able to send Lovelace's father back to Ghana with a supply of more dressings (for her open head tumor), pain killers (as I have heard that she is no longer up and walking due to pain), and some steriods to hopefully help with her pain and stimulate her appetite (a common thing in palliative care).

Now, before I came to Mercy Ships, I worked on a palliative care unit. So the uses and the doses of the drugs were something that I was comfortable with recommending and dispensing. The thing that broke my heart was that this...whatever this was...was the most that we could do for her. I know that a lot of people would care to argue with me and say that what we are doing is a lot and it is enough. But, when you come from a first-world country, and you know what is available to those who are know and understand just how limited we are here. And, it can be frustrating. We are here to help...but how much are we actually helping? Who's going to check up on this little one? Who is going to make sure the medication is controlling her pain and that she isn't suffering from side-effects? Who is going to see that she is eating and getting the nutrients that she needs? Who's going to know if she will pass away peacefully and relatively pain-free...hopefully surrounded by her loving family? What are they going to do, if she lives beyond the means of medications that we've given her and the Mercy Ship is gone?

So...what do you do? You do the very best that you can, with the means that are available to you, while keeping that patient's best interest in mind. And, you pray to God that it's enough...

And, that's exactly what I did last night, alone in the dispensary. I prayed that in this situation that seems so hopeless and sad...that my God show Himself mighty, merciful, and loving. Harriet welcomed me to her world, as she is already wondering what she is going to do with her patients when the ship sails.

So, now...I am asking you to pray...for our little Lovelace and the other patients that our palliative care team takes care of. Some times, when you don't know what to do, or what else there is to do...the best thing to do is pray.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wee Word Wednesday - BBQs

Being a dual citizen of the United States of America and Canada...the first weekend in July is usually a pretty big deal for me. In that one weekend, I am celebrating Canada Day (July 1) and Independence Day (July 4).

Back home, in either country, this usually means BBQs and fireworks. Here in Lomé it meant BBQs sans fireworks. But, being so far from either home, I'll definitely take what I can get!

(pics from left to right: 1) lucky for us, Jesse, our chief chef on the Africa Mercy, is a Canadian and from Calgary, too! 2) the wonderful spread at the Canadian BBQ 3) having fun in the pool 4) the 4th of July BBQ on the dock.)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Faith like an African?

My time here aboard the Africa Mercy is slowing winding to a close. And as that time dwindles, the question of, "Hey, do you think you'd ever come back?" continues to weigh heavy on my mind. Not that this is a question I haven't been considering since the very first day I stepped on board. But, it seems like it's something that I should likely answer sooner rather than later. And, even at that...I've kind of already answered that question, but just wanted to serve out my first commitment here to see if I felt the same way about that answer now as I did then. Capiche?

A few weeks ago, a friend, who is African, and I were having a casual conversation. And, this question came it always does, especially when you're chatting with someone who is here on a longer term commitment than you.

My answer is and continues to be, "I would love to come back...but (the ever inevitable 'but') there are just a few things at home that should probably be taken care of first before I dedicate more time to missions." Another friend, Hannah, and I joke (with a bit of seriousness behind it) that we should come back in 2012, so then at least we'd know someone here on the ship and have someone to hang out with (Especially since the turn over here is so high. In a matter of months, the crew could look entirely different to what it was at the beginning of an outreach. Trust me, I know.).

My friend asked me to elaborate on what I meant...and I explained the things that I felt needed to be done before I could consider coming back...not to mention having to plan my 10 year high school reunion for next year. As I spoke, my friend picked up on the heart of all of it...the issue was whether or not I would be able to do it on my own. Would I be able to save enough? Would I be able to deal with stuff? Could I get it all done on my own, and what did I think a reasonable time line would be?

Are you picking up on what's missing here like my friend did?'s missing God's plan for me and His ability to provide for me. It's missing faith in believing that God will help me through whatever it is that I am supposed to be doing with my life.

My friend told me that part of my problem is that I am not African. He said that here in Africa, because they don't have the means that we do in Canada and America...they just take steps of faith and trust that God will follow through, if that's what God really wants for their lives. He said that when he committed to coming here, he didn't have everything he needed to be in order on his own before he came. He just knew that he wanted to be here, felt that he was called to serve with Mercy Ships, and prayed that God would follow through and fill in all the missing holes.

Not that I at all don't appreciate where I am from and the means that I have been blessed with in my life. I do. But, perhaps he is right, and I have come to a place, or have always been in a place in my life, where I don't feel I have to depend on anyone else to get what I want or do what I want. And, I know (my mom tells me all the time) that most times, I am bit too independent...and I am sure that a lot of it stems from not having to be dependent on someone else, and also not wanting to have to be in a place to depend on someone else.

But, sometimes, I wish I had faith like an African.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wee Word Wednesday - Getting around...

Let's just say, that I've had some pretty interesting adventures just trying to get around here in West Africa. These pictures give you just a small idea of what we see and go through in our travels...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wee Word Wednesday - MIA

Now, often times, I know that MIA is an acronym used for "missing in action". And while that still does apply, I'd like to also note that it could stand for "missing in Africa".
Some of you may be wondering what I am going on about...but, yesterday, Miriam went on vacation for 3 weeks...effectively leaving me as the only pharmacist on board...and kind of the only one in the pharmacy.
Not that I begrudge her going on's a whopper of a wedding dash across countries that she's just means that I miss her.

Hope you have a fabulous time away, Miriam! But, I'll be a bit selfish and say that I am looking forward to your return. :-)