Saturday, June 30, 2012


At the end of May, I found myself with a to-do list that I was determine to complete before I left on vacation for a month. In June, our surgeon was taking time off and my sister was coming from Papua New Guinea. So it looked like perfect timing to go home, my growing to-do list said otherwise.

 I had been in the OR for over a month and just starting to feel comfortable with the Sierra Leone theatre routine. No official start time, tea breaks in between turnovers, cesarean sections interrupting our already long day of fistula surgeries- my cohort OR nurses in other parts of the world would understand the frustrations. I was taking time with introducing new ideas as I tried to increase standards. One friend that has been in Salone for six years shared words of wisdom to me- “Choose your battles carefully and only take on two at a time, if not just one.” So, my first battle took almost the six weeks I had been working in theatre- Velcro. After endless searches at the markets in town, we came up empty. I shared the concern with a friend of mine when she offered her own supply of Velcro- the prayer answered in seconds. I explained the need for Velcro was to repair the mattress on the OR table for the sake of the patient’s safety and better body mechanics for the nurses. I was so happy to receive the gift of Velcro from my friend! I celebrated a little prematurely because it took a couple more weeks to find the right glue to stick the mattress on to the bed. Sure enough, on my last day, Ibraham, our maintenance extraordinaire, helped me with my first OR project so I could check Velcro off my list.

One of my responsibilities outside of the OR is data entry. Now don’t get too excited because not many people are enthusiastic about the monotony of paperwork. Nonetheless, I had to tackle the battle of updating our medical forms and charting system and then sharing the changes with the nurses. My coworker, Sue, and I enter the majority of forms on the computer and had the same headaches day in and day out- so we worked on this project together for weeks. On my last day, I led the nurse staff meeting and in-service on data entry. It started about a hour late, but nowadays, I’m so flexible it scares me. The new changes were well received and all the nurses agreed my teaching skills are fine (which is high praise in Salone). I give credit to the incredible teachers in my family. I gathered the paperwork the nurses practiced on for data entry and returned to my office to check off another task on my list.

The only thing remaining on my list was “Korea". A month ago we discharged Korea and my heart was torn to see her leave, but also so happy that she was dry and healed. Korea kept telling us she was afraid to go home so we found an auntie to take care of her in Freetown. In my western-world frame of mind, I really wanted to send Korea home with a wheelchair. She still needed help to get around and daily physical therapy to get her legs straight to walk again. However, one of our drivers took Korea and her Auntie home, and returned saying it was not a practical place for a wheelchair.  I prayed for Korea who was always on my heart and on my list to follow-up with every Friday when she was suppose to come for physical therapy.  The last week before I left, we had a meeting with amazing Christian organization that is helping women in Sierra Leone (unfortunately, due to privacy, I can’t share more) and I immediately thought of Korea. We had not seen her in over a month so I made a plan on my last day to go find her with the help of our driver and ward supervisor, Bernadette. It was a journey into a part of town I never been to and climb down a steep muddy hill, but we found Korea at her Auntie’s house. Her cousin carried her outside and I noticed she had the same clothes on when she left AWC, had lost weight, but thankful to see smile form on her face when she saw visitors. People in the village gathered because the news spread of a white woman (yes, that would me!). I was offered a yellow plastic water container to sit on, but worried I would break it, I opted for the ground next to Korea. I was happy to hear she was still dry and we took time to evaluate if this was the best place for Korea. It started to rain so we said our goodbyes quickly to make the trek up the hill before it became impossible. It made me think- it was impossible for Korea on a daily basis to get around here. I was thankful for God’s perfect timing with the meeting with the women’s organization in my last week so we could partner together to care for Korea.

I found myself back in my office, staying well past five o’clock finishing last minute jobs- clinical governance paperwork, typing up staff meeting minutes, and organizing the education schedule. As I checked the tasks off my to-do list along with Velcro and data entry, I left some jobs for when I returned.  I finally felt better about going home. If I had only time to accomplished one thing before I left, it would be making sure that Korea was taken care of at her new home. My list was complete. 


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