Saturday, May 22, 2010


I would like to introduce you to my friend Afi. “Afi” is a common name in the Mina culture in Togo. I am even known in the hospital as Afi because I was born on a Friday, just like this sweet girl. I first heard of Afi when I came back to the ship after being out with the screening team. It was one of our last screening days in April and a difficult day having to turn away so many we could not help. I heard a little girl was having emergency surgery that afternoon we had seen at screening. None of us on the team knew of Afi, but the pieces of puzzle slowly came together.

Afi and her mama were pulled out of the massive crowds and told to take a taxi straight to the ship. The tumor inside her mouth was making it difficult for her to breathe. Dr. Gary performed a tracheotomy, which allowed Afi to breathe through a temporary tube in her neck. As she recovered in ICU, we discovered more about Afi. She was referred to us earlier in the year by a missionary doctor, but because of the poor prognosis of the tumor we said we could not help with surgery. Her determined mama, Ama, still brought her to the screening and now she was on the ship. Surgery to remove the oral mass was delayed because she came down with a serious infection. At this point, Afi was still a mystery to me, I knew of her, but why did God put her on my heart. Why did God bring her here when we can’t help? The infection finally cleared and I was able to visit her on the ward. We colored and looked through Bible storybooks together. Her mama nicknamed me Afi Grand and she was Afi Petite. One Sunday night, I was paged for an emergency surgery. I rushed down to ICU where I saw Ama praying and watching her daughter struggle to breathe. I held onto terrified Afi with tears streaming down both our faces as she was fighting to take in oxygen. We quickly worked in the operating room to ease her struggle and placed a new tube to help her breathe around the tumor. Afi was stable so the doctors decided to go ahead with surgery the following week. Less than two hours, the mass was out and Afi was on her way to recovery. I would make daily visits and Afi was your typical little girl, excited to get her nails painted and happy to play with my hair. She was breathing and eating like there was never anything preventing her to do so. On May 16th, Afi was discharged from the hospital; it happened to be her 6th birthday. If they had not come to screening a month before, Afi would have not made it to her birthday. I escorted Ama and Afi down the gangway, wondering the prognosis for my little friend. I don’t know the details of the pathology report, but I do know that Afi was given more days to live and will be in my heart forever, after all we do share the same name.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Final Preparations

It was a typical start to my Friday. I could get an extra 15 minutes of sleep, but I woke up before my alarm. I splashed water on my face and returned to my bed to start the day off right. I grabbed a bag of homemade granola and reached for “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. The scripture for the day was one of my favorites:

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.

I meditated more on this verse as I got ready for work and headed down stairs to the operating room. It was final preparation day for VVF (vesico-vaginal fistula) surgery. I am so excited about being in a new role as VVF Team Leader. The ladies from the north travel to Lome’ tomorrow. I have only met a few at pre-screening, but they already have captured my heart. Screening with the surgeon is on Monday and surgery starts on Tuesday. I sat at the computer and looked at my to-do list. I had the day off on Tuesday and sick on Wednesday. Thursday was catch up day on sterilizing duties. I started right to work on taking inventory of suture and catheters. I worked on the manual for nurses right up until lunch. The afternoon consisted of getting OR #3 ready and a leadership meeting that lasted until dinnertime. I am thankful for a friend that stayed late to help me put the final touches on the room. We found homes for supplies and bleached the equipment we pulled out of storage. I found myself in the dining room too tired to socialize and even to eat. The exhaustion was even more compounded still being sick and from my ever growing to-do list in my head. I made it back to my cabin and sat on the floor just to organize my paperwork. My mind flooded with concerns about Monday approaching too quickly… Am I going to feel 100% better by Monday? I can’t be sick now. How many ladies are we going to have to turn away? How am I going to schedule for next four weeks? Is the OR going to run smoothly with ever-changing staff? Do we have a translator to speak the northern dialects?

Just overwhelmed, I suddenly remembered how I started my day… the right way in God’s Word. In Matthew 6, it tells us not to worry about anything in life because we are valuable to our Heavenly Father. If we seek Him first, everything else will fall into place. Tonight, I am trusting God with the final preparations.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Have you ever had a song you can’t get out of your head? I have had this silly song from Veggie Tales playing over and over in my head… called “I Love My Lips”. Poor Larry, the cucumber, has lost his lips and sings how much he loved his lips.

These two horizontal planes of tissue allow you to do so much- to nurse as a baby, to whisper, to talk, to whistle, to kiss, to eat, and to smile. I will not take for granted my lips anymore. As I assisted our max-fax surgeon, Dr. Tony, shared with me that all of us in the womb have cleft lips. So from the corners of your lips and the sides of the roof of your mouth- cells form tissue that grows toward the midline to form your lip and palate. Sometimes that tissue never meets in the center and babies are born with a gap under their nose, also known as a cleft lip. Dr. Tony brought many children from a village north of Lome’, ranging from three months to 13 years old. We have heard of babies being abandoned and children being outcast because of these deformities.

However, on the Africa Mercy they are loved, held, kissed, and admired by all that see them on the ward. Wednesday I worked in the operating room fixing these lips, Thursday I cared for them in recovery, and Sunday I worshipped with them at ward church. Their new smiles make your heart melt even more when you first meet them on the bench before surgery. In recovery, I held a precious little one- that was not even born when we arrived in February in Togo, but God knew we would be here to fix his lip in May.

I saw kids reach up to feel as mothers admire their children’s new faces. It is hard not to fall in love with these babies with “whiskers”- just the bandages that are placed on the stitches holding their new top lip together. After this week fixing cleft lips with Dr. Tony, I can now relate with Larry and with our patients. I love my lips too… if I lost them, I would miss them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010


It was one of those weeks that you talk about, but you don’t want to relive it. There were good moments I am thankful for as well as difficult ones, I know will learn from. I had a different job everyday in the operating room so I was stretched going from coordinating coworkers, to cataracts, sterilizing, max-fax, plastics, and assisting anesthesia. I love doing it all because it allows me to be a part of what God is doing in lives here in Africa. Each day I recognized patients that came into the OR to receive surgery that I had seen at screenings. What a joy it was to see the full circle of our efforts in Togo- and I know there is more to come. Life outside of work was just as crazy busy with youth, meetings, playtime with friends, and a long to-do list. So it was already a long week, but the quiet time I needed came on Thursday. Instead of our weekly meeting, one of the chaplains played the piano and sang songs that ministered to my heart (which is common).

"Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die

O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus

Fly to Jesus and live!"

The final song, Untitled Hymn by Chris Rice, brought tears as well as thoughts of loved ones at home. I thought of loved ones from Africa, Ani and Vincent that have gone to Jesus. Many of us were praying for O’Brien, who came to us weeks ago and was known as the miracle baby. Doctors were preparing to do extreme measures to help O’Brien and took just a moment to pray and God answered. He was stable and breathing on his own. God gave O’Brien’s mama extra days with her little baby, but he continued to struggle until Friday, when his little heart stopped and he went home to Jesus. Throughout this week, I rejoiced and struggled about life- it is about falling, singing, crying, dancing, until we fly home to Jesus to live.


The views expressed here are solely mine and are not the opinion of AWC/Mercy Ships.