Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The most precious letter I have ever received

This is a letter from Sia's uncle. Unfortunately I couldn't meet him, I wasn't on board when he came to visit Sia, so he asked the nurses to give me this.

So.... apparently I am "too Godly" :) I suppose I should say Thank you to that, right?

Last night I went to say goodbye to Sia and her mum. She got dischared today at 5 am so they can catch a ride home to the provinces.

I cried a little and took some more pictures of her. This is how I will remember her.

Wow, life is so very good right now! Praise God!

Power the ship

Here is a cool video done by our Marketing team. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Freetown traffic... no comments

1 word to describe it: horrendous!
1 video to prove it: 

(I was riding on a motorbike-taxi on a Saturday afternoon. This is Kissy Road, one of the main roads in Freetown. Now imagine that during a Friday afternoon... :) )

The joys of living in a place where you have fast Internet :)))) 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is Salone...

It's what the title says. A visual introduction to this great country and its people, traditions and culture...
(hiked up to the hill, met some cute kids on the way and you can see our ship in the background)
(Catching a genuine smile on a kid's face  is not easy here)

(Muslim lady walking through the dirty town to get to the Mosque)
(Some ladies share a meal, probably their only meal that day, with our group.
They eat the leftovers from 1 big bowl with their hands)
(This LIVE chicken was a thank you gift I received in one village...)
(Fishermen pulling out the nets on the beach)
(There is always room for 1 more bag)
("The truth will prevail - All eyes on me")
(Palm trees by night with the 12.547.845.569.875.823.610.054 stars as backdrop)

(Palm trees by day with white, fluffy clouds)

 To be continued...

11:11 11.11.11.

Sorry guys, gotta make this 1 comment, but it only works in Hungarian....

Na, mi ez? Hát nem mindegy? :)) (gondolom otthon a csapból is ez a poén folyt, sajna én egyszer sem hallottam itt)

Everybody on board gathered to celebrate this once in a lifetime opportunity. Me, as usual, wasn't there. I was driving around in the middle of nowhere with a local day worker trying to locate some water wells. At 11:11 though I asked Sam to take a picture of me:
I was about 3 hours away from the ship... lost... with a GPS in hand... :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Royal visit

Just a regular work day on board the Africa Mercy...

Nothing fancy, except UK's Princess Anne and her hubby came by for some tea the other day :)
Since I am a coffee drinker, sadly we missed each other...

They didn't allow any personal cameras so we had to wait a few weeks for the "official" pictures.

The plot thickens... Sia chapter 2.

Soooooooo, today I was walking down the stairs when Natalie, a nurse from UK told me to check out Ali's blog if I want to know more about Sia.  Sure!

Once again I had tears in my eyes as I was reading her story. It's a longer post, so I just copied the part about her to you. You gotta love HAPPY ENDINGS! :)

"The last story is the heart-wrenching one, but for once it's not in a bad way. For once I have nothing but good to share with you, and it's good for Sia. Her story developed in the most amazing way today.

First, I want you to head over to Reka's blog and read the story of how Sia was found on the street. That's how Sia's story started, and you've heard a lot about what's been going on since she arrived on board. I want to tell you about what's going to happen when we leave.

We've found a hospital in Guinea where she can receive further treatment, and we've been working out the details as far as how she'll get to and from her home in the north of Sierra Leone and what sort of financial help they'll need to make this all happen. I worked on the wards today while Natalie, the current Team Leader, spent the day doing office work. She felt like she wanted to see the sun, so she took her work up to Deck Six to sit in the internet cafe. While there, one of the women who works with Patient Life came to talk over the whole thing and see where we were at.

Natalie and Yvonne moved to the comfortable chairs near the cafe and started working out the total cost for Sia to receive the four more months of treatment she'll need. Factoring in all the costs, it came to around $130. There's a woman who attend's my mum's Bible study back home who shares my blog with a friend of hers. That friend already donated thirty dollars towards that sum, and Natalie figured that the remaining hundred would be easily raised since we all love Sia.

Which is when God stepped in.

A woman sitting a few chairs over leaned towards Natalie and apologized for eavesdropping. It's just that, before I left, my neighbours gave me a hundred dollars, she explained. They wanted it to be used specifically for the care of a child, and I had no idea how to find a child or how to best use the money. Are you talking about a child?

Of course they were talking about a child. It's not a joke when it says that He does more than we can ask or imagine; before we could even come up with a plan to raise this money, God had already provided. He moved in Marie's heart to donate thirty dollars, and he moved in the hearts of an unknown couple to give the rest of the money, specifically to be used for a child. He arranged for Natalie to take her office day upstairs, for Yvonne to meet her there, for the woman to be sitting near enough to hear their conversation.

This God of ours, He does nothing by halves."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Saving a life... with a camera

I love going off the ship and taking photos of people, culture, landscapes, funny things...

It happened 2 weeks ago that I was walking on the streets with my big fancy Nikon SLR when a lady touched my hand. Due to my white skin it happens a lot so first I ignored it. But then a man said "Miss, excuse me". I stopped walking and turned around. A man with broken English tried to ask if I was working with Mercy Ships. I was - and I embraced myself for the next question. "Can you help her?"

No, I cannot. I am not a doctor to begin with, the surgery schedule is full, we are departing soon so there is not enough time to heal and what is the problem anyway?

The man turned to the lady and spoke in a dialect I never heard here before. The lady nodded and brought before me a young girl who hid her face with a huge scarf. She instructed her to uncover her face and suddenly I was starring at a nasty tumor that was growing out of her left eye. Good grief, this thing stinks so badly! I jerked back quickly and looked at the man for answers. It turns out they came from the far away province in hope of some relief and hope. The little girl was in so much pain but she couldn't even share tears any more. She's already forgotten how to walk with her head high up. In only 2 short months she was forced to endure excruciating pain, humiliation and to face death.

To my "trained eyes" it looked like Burkitt's Lymphoma (a very aggressive type of cancer that attacks young children and without treatment it's always fatal), but what do I know, really. Through the translator I told her that the most I can do to her is take a snap and if I get the chance, show it to the screening coordinator. The mum was very grateful, she even smiled at me and my heart broke. I knew we cannot help her...

You think it gets easier over time, but it never does. Saying NO is the most difficult thing you do at Mercy Ships. I have seen a LOT of nasty things and yet, it hits me just as hard each time I see it. How can this happen? What's the logic behind it? Why does this happen to a sweet, innocent child? 

I took a picture of her and tried to emphasize the fact that there is no promise. I am pretty sure that's not what she wanted to hear, yet in that situation she was holding on to that 0.1% chance that I gave her.

I walked back to the ship and went to find the screening coordinator. She wasn't on board. Her assistant wasn't at her desk either. Normally I would have given up at this point, but somehow I felt I need to go the extra mile. I went to the hospital corridor, where we are not allowed to enter usuallly. To my delight I found the assistant coordinator there. She was running late for a meeting, but I grabbed her hand. "Just a second, I have a picture for you to look at".

It only took her a second to confirm my fear. Most likely it's too late... Our schedules are full... Sorry, we cannot help...

And in that very moment Dr Gary walked by! He managed to get a glimpse of the image on my camera and I think his professional curiosity kicked in. :) He asked who she was. I gave him the reader's digest version. Maybe???? Surprisingly he suggested that they bring her in for a biopsy so at least they would know what's that. But again, no promises!

So I left. I have to admit I kind of forgot about her, believing that whatever they found was bad enough and regretfully we cannot help... And days went by. I was busy with my job and her sad story was quickly replaced by many other sad stories we see and hear here every day.

Then suddenly 2 days ago on Monday I was walking in the hospital corridors again and overheard 2 nurses talking about a little girl with an eye problem. I went back and asked for some details. You can imagine my excitement when they confirmed that she was indeed "my" little girl. I begged for permission to go into the ward and see it for myself.

She was playing with some dolls when I entered the room. Her mum recognized me and smiled at me. Then Sia turned around and saw me...

Yes, I had tears in my eyes. Tears of joy. She is alive!!! Not only that, but she was smiling and having a great time. She gave me an awkward hug, probably not understanding why I was crying. :)

I checked with the nurses who told me she was admitted a week ago. Apparently I was correct, it was indeed Burkitt's - the ONLY type of cancer that we can and DO treat. She already received a dose of chemo and she was recovering from that wonderfully. In addition to that she received a surgery as well to remove every trace of the cancer. Unfortunately they couldn't save her eye, but at least they saved her life! According to the doctors the tumor was growing so fast that most likely within 2 weeks she would have died. You get it? 2 weeks have passed by since I took that picture...

She is alive and well and will have a better future!
And it started with me taking that 1 picture...
Oh, how much I love God for allowing me to play a small, yet important part in saving Sia's life!!!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Divers and Forklifts and Trainings and Accidents

As I wrote to you earlier, we have some divers on board who regularly go under the yucky water to clean some filters or other "fun" things. I also told you that none of them are here as a diver per se - they all have a day job. Tim Benson (from Australia/New Zealand, see photo) is a purser during the day and a diver at... well, not at night, but whenever it's needed. He wrote this short note on facebook and gave me permission so that I can re-post it. Enjoy! :)

"As most of you know I am one of the lucky people that get to dive underneath the ship and help to clean out and maintain the intake vents for the ships salt water cooling system that keep the generators and air conditioning running. A few weeks ago we had a drill to practice what would happen in case of an emergency with a diver been injured under the ship and how we could get them out of the water and treated best. The drill went really well and it was a good learning experience for everyone involved as it was something new to almost all of us. Here are some pictures that show the events of the drill.
Getting ready for the drill
Jumping in
Waiting for the drill to start
Captain briefing everyone on what is going to happen
Brave volunteers jumping in to help out
Me pretending to be unconscious
Getting positioned in the rescue basket
Taking off my dive gear, ready to pull me out
Getting lifted up by the fork lift
Almost out
And safely on land (with Dan Bergman, ICU nurse)

Unfortunately not too much more than a week after we had this drill I found myself diving to save the piece of equipment that had saved me during the drill. There was a bit of an accident and our forklift ended up going for a swim. (No Persons or animals where hurt in this forklift accident) I got to be apart of the rescue effort as 2 of us dove in the murky water to find it on the ocean floor and attached a crane to it so that it could be pulled out. Needless to say its back to the drawing board on what we will do in case of needing to pull a diver out of the water... :)"

Some people have windows in their offices and could catch the perfect moment before the forklift went under... I think it got confused and thought it was a submarine... Oh well, never a dull moment on the Africa Mercy! :)