Sunday, January 14, 2018

Giving Blood, Sweat, & Tears at Work!

When someone uses the term "Blood, Sweat, & Tears" we get the idea of hard work. For sure, if you work in Food Service you are WORKING HARD! I guarantee it. You will sweat, at least at some point. Tears? There are pounds/kilograms of onions to peel and prepare each day. Blood? Hopefully not! Unless you have agreed to be part of the ships blood bank for patients. Then I most definitely hope you get to give blood!

Mercy Ships has a unique blood donation system. They only use whole blood that contains plasma because they can’t separate it on the ship. The crew on-board the ship are literally a “walking blood bank” because there is no means of storing blood past 72 hours here on the vessel.

On the Africa Mercy they test every donor’s blood before the need arises. This allows the lab to call crew members immediately to start the process of donating blood.

I am O-positive. I am told it's pretty common. Laughing I tell the nurse "So I am considered generic!". But in this case it's pretty good to be generic. The blood can be used universally for other patients.

Being a manager I carry a pager on the ship. [I know right? You thought pagers were a thing of the past.] They paged me and I called the lab. They needed blood because they were running low. Surgery was currently happening and there were more planned the next day. I went down right away. The next morning I received a text page saying my blood was being used in a patient! -- It's a pretty amazing experience to know that my blood has helped give life in at least 3 African countries so far.

The map behind me is signed by donors from around the world. Blood that has saved lives!
Thank you for your support by partnering with us! You make it possible to serve in this capacity and giving blood is one more way to help those we serve.

Become a financial partner! Your Gift is Tax Deductible

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Did you know what Encephalocele is?

If you have ever heard about the amazing work that Mercy ships does you have heard about facial tumors, cleft lips & palates, plastic surgery for burn patients, obstetric fistulas, and eye surgeries to name a few. Mercy ships does a lot of things but did you know we do crainiotomies? No? Me neither until serving on board in 2008. 

These patients are not the ones on the Mercy Ships commercials or websites. So most of the nurses that come are quite surprised to hear that we do crainiofacial surgery.
Down on D ward we have an especially intense two week period when we have a team of 3 surgeons Dr. Gary(maxofacial), Dr. Shaleindra(neurosurgery), and Dr. David(plastic surgery).

The first day we did screening. We met each of the patients and looked at the CT scans and the surgeons came up with a game plan. It was really interesting to be involved in the very beginning of the process. I felt like I was in the upper room as I watched these 3 brilliant men come up with a complex surgical plan that would deeply impact these selected patients lives.

At the time they where a name, age, and diagnosis. Now, 6 weeks later, I love these people. They run and give me hugs when I see them at their outpatient appointments and we delight in the their great outcomes.

To start from the beginning of the story, I was asked in early September to lead the crainiofacial surgery. I prayed about it and said yes. As I began preparing I taught an in-service to the nurses about the different surgeries we would be doing. The 3 surgeries that we do on the ship that need a crainiotomy are encephaloceles, hypertelorism, and facial clefts.
  • Encephaloceles are a neural tube defect. It occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy where the skull does not close and some brain tissue is outside of its protective skull. This is seen in the Western world but much less because most pregnant women take prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid. Folic acid has been shown to decrease neural tube defects by 50%.
  • Hypertelorism is when eyes are much more wide apart then usual. This surgery involves breaking the orbits, rotating bone, and using bone putty to fill holes. I find this so cool. It is very much like a puzzle.
  • Facial clefts are basically a hole or gap in bone, soft tissue or both. All three of these require the surgeons to lift the frontal portion of the skull to be able to move around the facial bones. So inevitably the patients will require much more monitoring and most of them spent some time in the ICU.
I round with the doctors each day and continue to until my last patient leaves the ward. Dr. Shailendra and Dr. David left right after surgery was over. I talk/text with Dr. Shailendra frequently with updates, photos, and sometimes videos so he can guide Dr. Gary and I as we have encountered some complications and difficulties.
This has been a very sweet and challenging experience. I have done things that I have never done before but more importantly I have seen lives changed. I have seen dramatic changes in appearance, self confidence, and love. I have spent so much time up close (up in their face close) and I have grown to love each one of them fiercely!

I have worked along side some incredible PICU nurses from all over the world. They gave incredible care to our sweet patients that sometimes weren't so sweet. Dr. Gary, Dr. Shailendra and Dr. David have taught me so much. They answered my questions and really listened to me when I had concerns. 

The last day the surgeons were there we took this picture of encephalocele row. Side by side are these precious people that worked so hard for their own or their child's recovery.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas!

This year, you changed lives. Thank you for partnering with us and leaving a lasting impact!

Wow! Christmas is almost here AND a New Year will begin soon!

The first six months of adjusting and settling in has been the focus of what we have shared with you so far. This coming year we will include sharing more of the work Mercy Ships does.

There are MANY things the Africa Mercy does once we are in port for field service. Trying to share them all is like information overload! And of course there is the issue of patient confidentiality and responsible use of social media.

Here is a link to the August 16th to December 16th Report! (PDF form) It shows you what Mercy Ships has achieved so far this field service. Mercy Ships - Africa Mercy Statistics 16 August thru 16 December

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Who Holds Tomorrow?

Sometimes I think the reason I can't remember where I put things or remember any of my passwords is because my brain is full of song lyrics. Some days I can come up with a song for nearly every sentence I hear. The funny thing is I can't carry a tune to save my life! So I try to keep this hidden talent to myself except to the ones that love me despite my terrible voice.

Yesterday I was listening to music while I ran and it really resonated with me. All the songs were about how we may not know what tomorrow holds but we know who holds tomorrow. Song after song spoke to my heart and encouraged me to my core.

This phase in life is hard! We are tired and I needed so much to be reminded that He holds our tomorrows. In my "mom's" bible study we are working thru James. This week we talked about how it says that our life is but a vapor. I have really thought about this because our vapor right now is HARD and it feels like it will last for-ev-er. But if I believe his word and his promises it will pass so quickly. So for now, I will "lean hard in the everlasting arms". -- Stephanie

Friday, November 3, 2017

Time Keeps Ticking

Time is a funny thing on the ship. I have come to realize that time is not my own, even more so than off the ship. Community life makes that very clear. Simple tasks like doing laundry can take much longer than normal. You may see a friend that needs you to listen to them. Or a new person that needs to be shown how to use the ships laundry machines. Tyrone laughs at me when I say " I'll be right back." We both know that's highly unlikely. Time seems to both fly by, and creep, on the ship. My days on the ship are packed between kids, work, quiet time, exercise, cleaning, and relationships. The days are quick but I find myself thinking it feels like we have been here much longer than 3 months.

My time on the ward is sweet. Some days are full and others I leave early. It depends on if the nurses need any help with complicated dressings, lab draws, or other tasks. Some days I spend tidying up the ICU or spending time with the patients playing games or cuddling a baby.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Just Pack Lunches - Mom's Point of View #2

My how things can change in a few weeks! The boys have settled into a routine at school and in ship life in general. They are learning to navigate friendships on board like little pros. It is very different on board than at home. Almost every day they are asked to play at someone else's cabin. Often they get more than one offer. They are cool kids!!

The boys have a couple of options of where to play on board. They like to play outside on deck 7 on the swings. Deck 8 has a larger open area they can ride bikes in circles and a small climbing structure. And up one more flight of stairs is a pool. We usually take them up to get their energy out after dinner and there is usually a bunch of kids up there.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Moms Point of View #1

The Hospital had an Open House with fun activities!
My theme the last 2 weeks has been "It's not about me". I am not here to utilize my skills but to bring glory to Him who called us here. I have said this phrase over and over to remind me not to get wrapped up in myself and keep the main thing, the main thing. Last Sunday I was sitting in church and the title of the sermon was "It's not about me." So there's that.

Living on a hospital ship in Cameroon with a family and 400 other people... is weird and wonderful. I am still in the transition phase and often catch myself thinking "Is this my life?" Some days I say it in a dreadful way and other days I say it with awe.