Sunday, May 19, 2013


This morning I attended not your typical church service. There were no pews at this church. Every bed occupied by a patient, crew members on stools between the beds, and chairs crammed across the ward to fit the remaining patients left on the wards. We squeezed as many as we could since today was the last ward church in Guinea. Just a few days ago, I carried Kadiatou, as tears streamed down her face into theatre. Today she found a comfortable spot on my friend's lap and played with us until the service started. 
The dress is always Sunday best for crew, but the patients usually wear hospital gowns. I noticed Marietou, a long-term patient, in a dress and head wrap. She greeted me with a hug and with her new smile. When she was young, her face from her nose to upper lip was destroyed by Noma. After several surgeries, Dr. Gary created her a new face with extra skin and muscle from multiple areas and even a piece of rib to make a nose. It has been amazing to see the transformation the past four months in not only Marietou’s face, but also her personality shining after being shunned for most of her life. Today’s service was special because patients were asked to give their testimonies. So Marietou’s cousin, Jeneba, spoke on her behalf to thank the crew and everyone for changing her life. For taking care of her when no one else could do anything for Marietou. Next Morali, shared his story that started in Sierra Leone during the civil war. The rebels destroyed his face with glass bottles and placed a padlock in his nose that he carried around for years. Eventually, it was removed, but it had damaged his face so much that he could not breathe without pain. Just this past week, Morali had his final surgery to place temporary tubes in his nose in hopes of breathing again. The third patient, Thierno, shared that he traveled all over West Africa to find medical help. Theirno was a famous soccer player, so he had the funds to travel and find a dentist to remove teeth that were bothering him. However, the pain and “button” in his mouth started to grow and took over his mouth that he could not even eat. He would try to drink water and most of it would come back out. At screening, he was so frail at 40 kilos (88 lbs) with a tumor that started in his mouth was then threatening his sight as it pushed up on his eye. Thierno stayed on the ward until he was strong enough to have surgery to remove the first tumor and another one just a few months ago. This past week, I brought Theirno into surgery one last time so Dr. Gary could revise his scar and extra skin that once was covering a tumor.
Clemetine, our ward chaplain, had asked these three patients to share, but as she tried to end the service, more patients asked to say something. In between a few praise songs, patient after patient stood up and shared their experience on the ship. That God had brought them here and they are healed. A proud papa stood up and held up his son, Lamin. We all know Lamin because he rides he tricycle up and down the hospital corridors. He does pretty well not running over toes even though we had to remove a tumor in his eye. He’s the happiest of little boys on the ward and responds to every “Amen” said aloud at church. Another papa came to the front and shared with us about his baby son, Junior. My friend Sandra brought Junior and his father to the ship last week from Sierra Leone. I met them on the dock as they arrived and cuddled Junior everyday on the ward. He’s only six months old and has a cleft lip and palate. His grandmother told the father he was a curse because he was causing his mother to be sick and should be sacrificed. Sandra was able to find an orphanage for him to stay until he had his surgery. Last Tuesday, Sandra prayed over Junior at the bench and I brought him in to the OR for Dr. Gary to repair his lip. Today, Ibrahim, Junior’s father, stood in front of us, and said with confidence, “My son is not the devil, not a demon, but a human being.” Patient after patient shared their story of being accepted for the first time, feeling loved and cared for, and even being fed, but most of all they received healing. 
As I was trying to listen to all the testimonies and commit them to memory, I noticed the patient in the bed next to me. Hasanatou is the feisty granny on the ward that all of us know well. Hasanatou’s family placed in her a taxi, but it took her several weeks to make the day-long journey. With the help of a stranger, she made it to the ship to have her surgery in January. We are praying to find her family to escort her home. She motioned to the nurse during the service that she was in pain. So instead of a collection plate being passed at this church service, a little medicine cup with a pill was passed to Hasanatou. The last testimony came from a brother of a patient, Ibrahima. Ibrahima was our last patient to have surgery here in Guinea. Friday night I was on-call so I came back to the OR to take care of Ibrahima. My friend gave me a report and told me it was a miracle that he survived his first surgery to remove the jaw tumor. This was his third surgery and we pray his last as he recovers on the ward. His brother told us many times the family took Ibrahima to the mosque to pray for his life to end, for the misery to end. His mother eventually sent Ibrahima with his brother to find help on the ship. Ibrahima’s brother thanked us for giving him life again. As the ward church finished with one more song, I looked around with a grateful heart at the bandages covering our patients’ wounds and prayed that one day this will be true for each one of them…
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wordless Weekend!

Remember Moussa?

Youth Worship in the wards. 
Remember Michelle & Mariama

Carys & Kadiatu 

Game time! 


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