Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fishing Village Church - video

When Mercy Ships was in Togo in 2010, together with a local pastor they started a church in a nearby fishing village. During this field service many crew members went there every Sunday to worship with the locals. On the last Sunday we spent in Lomé, I took the Mercy Team there to experience real, authentic African Church Service.

All I have to say is: they sure know how to praise God with their dancing, singing, playing instruments!
Here is a short video of the worship part, without any comments. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Afi - and the mute shall speak...

Another example of love in action from the writers:

“Every moment of my life is difficult to survive. I struggle greatly, and I struggle alone,” Afi says with tear-filled eyes that testify to the pain she has suffered for the last four years. As she speaks of the suffering she has endured, she takes a rag to wipe the tears streaming down her scarred face and recounts her story with courage and grace.

Afi suffers from a disorder called epilepsy. She can suddenly have seizures that force her body into debilitating tremors. One day in 2008, Afi was cooking over a fire with her one-month-old son strapped to her back. Suddenly, she felt ill and thought she needed to sit down. Before she had time to react, her body went into a seizure, forcing her to fall face-first into the fire. She lay there in the fire, seizing helplessly. Luckily, her infant son was not harmed, but the damage to Afi was brutal. She suffered severe burns on her face, neck, hands, and legs.

Afi tried to go to a hospital to get medical help, but the hospital turned her away because she had no one to take care of her son. As her wounds began to heal, her skin started to contract, pulling her face down and her shoulder upwards. The injuries became her shackles over the next four years. Afi’s husband left her because he could not stand to look at her. Riddled with guilt, he ended up committing suicide, leaving Afi to be the sole parent to their three children.

People believed that Afi’s deformity was the result of a curse. She was no longer able to sell fruit in the market because people were too afraid of her. She was forced into a life of isolation, with only her children to help her. The village would no longer allow Afi to walk through the center, touch anything, or be near anybody. When children caught a glimpse of Afi's face, they ran away in fear. She had to hide in her home. If she wanted to go anywhere, she had to sneak around the outskirts of town.

Recently, she went to the hospital again, desperately seeking help. Catching a glimpse of a TV, she heard that Mercy Ships was coming to Togo, West Africa. Afi wrote down the dates. Leaving her children with her father-in-law, Afi tried to get to the port. Relentlessly, she made three trips to the port gates, each time being turned away by the local security. Finally, she was allowed through and examined by Mercy Ships crew.

It was a wonderful day when she was given her appointment card. “I know now that things are going to be better. I can tell my life will move in that direction,” Afi says as she spends her days on her hospital bed onboard the Africa Mercy. Afi’s surgery will release the contracted skin, allowing her neck and shoulder to move again. Her eyelids and lips will be released and repaired. She will receive function and movement again – release from the shackles, the injuries that have held her captive.

She has already had a taste of how much better her life will be. Mercy Ships crew are not afraid of her, and they look her in the eyes. This is the start of a new life, with new hope and a new future. She smiles through her tears saying, “Thank you for everything, and thank you to everybody. I now see a new life coming my way. I pray God will help me each step of the way.”

Afi was very cautious when she first arrived, not sure of how anyone would treat her.
Afi on the day of her arrival to the Africa Mercy.
Afi waits in the ward, healing after her surgery on her neck, eyelids, and lips.
After surgery, Afi is served dinner in the ward.
Afi is so touched by the fact that the Mercy Ships crew are not afraid to touch her.
Afi worships with friends in the church service held in the wards. 
Afi gives her testimony in the ward church service on the Sunday of her departure.
Afi is sad to leave the Africa Mercy, where she has received so much love and support.
She says goodbye to Mercy Ships, with hopes to return for further reconstruction.
She leaves with a new hope that keeps her head held high.

Darius - and the sick shall be healed

Another wonderful transformation from the writers.

"Onboard the Africa Mercy, a nine-year-old boy named Darius sat curled up on his mother’s lap. With his head bent over, he hid his face from view. The dark sunglasses and the large bandages over his eyes hid a boy who was trying to cope with the circumstances life gave him.

Just five months ago, Darius’ had been a normal boy who could run around playing with his friends. Then one day, he came home from school feeling sick. And, before anyone understood what was happening, he was fighting for his life.

Darius had chickenpox, and his aunt decided to buy him some antibiotic to help him get better. Unfortunately, he had an adverse reaction to the antibiotic. This reaction is known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) – a life-threatening skin condition in which cell death causes the epidermis to detach from the dermis. It also affects the mucous membranes of the body.

Darius’s reaction was severe, and it did not take long before he became extremely weak. His mother, Josephine, took him to many doctors, but none of them understood what was happening to the boy because SJS is a rare syndrome.

As Darius’s condition worsened, layers of skin died and fell off from his lips, inner eyelids, and other parts of his body. When he started to vomit blood and mucous, Josephine decided she needed to go to a large hospital – anything to help her son get better. They traveled all the way to a hospital in the capital of Benin, where they waited in the ER for someone to help them.

“I looked down at my son. Flies were living in his wounds. He was covered with blood and dead tissue. Even the flies saw him as good as dead. I wondered how anyone so small could survive so much,” Josephine says as she fights back tears. Darius was brought to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Slowly, he started to regain strength but remained in the ICU for a while.

Darius’s eyes were swollen shut, so he could not see. One day, as he lay in bed in the ICU, he heard a fuse spark. He could smell the smoke as the fire started to build around his bed. He began yelling for help, but the nurses had been called somewhere else and did not hear him. Finally, Josephine heard his cries and ran in to see the place engulfed with flames. She picked up her son and ran to safety. Luckily, the boy received no injuries from the fire, and he was moved to the pediatric ward of the hospital, where Josephine could stay with him at all times. He spent a month in the pediatric ward before being released from the hospital.

The inner lining of his eyelids had fallen away, and as the raw edges of the eyelids started to heal, the upper and lower eyelids fused together. No longer able to open his eyes, Darius was blind to the world around him.

When Josephine heard about Mercy Ships, she brought Darius to one of the eye screenings. The Mercy Ships Eye Team quickly sent him to the ship to be screened for surgery. The young boy needed many surgeries to address his physical problem. But, just as important, the traumatized boy needed an emotional restoration.

At first, Darius kept to himself, keeping his head down. The horror of the past several months weighed heavily on him. Slowly, the crew onboard the Africa Mercy started to coax him out of hiding. His spirit started to lift as he saw how people cared for him and protected him from harm. Josephine explains, “He is receiving all this surgery and care, we are receiving food, and all of our needs are being taken care of. The nurses are so kind to us, and it is such a blessing after all of our struggles.”

The emotional transformation was remarkable. Darius could be found playing the piano – with the largest grin on his face. He also loved doing exercises and stretches.

Unfortunately, the damage to Darius’ vision was so extensive that it could not be reversed. But another type of help was provided.

Yvonne Harris, the OR Administrative Assistant onboard the Africa Mercy, united her church and family in making a long-term commitment to Darius. They are providing the funding for Darius to attend a school for the blind. In spite of his handicap, his future is now much brighter.

A grateful Josephine has a special message for the donors who have helped pay for Darius’s care and education: “You are taking from your own salaries for us! May the Lord bless your hands and your salary, and may you have good health and a long life. You have truly blessed us!”

And Darius, basking in the love and friendship he found on the Africa Mercy, sits in the ward and lifts his head high, singing a song he adapted to honor Mercy Ships:"

“They will go to the ends of the earth,
Mercy Ships, Mercy Ships.
They will never perish,
Mercy Ships Mercy Ships.”

 Darius – six months before he became sick.
Darius, after being released from the hospital – finally, almost healed
from the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.
 Darius takes comfort from nurse Nick while enjoying the fresh air on Deck 7.
 Darius sits on his bed, not wanting to venture far out of his comfort zone.
 Darius often hides on his bed, and the light bothers his eyes. The scarring all over his skin is from the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.
 Darius tries to hide. Not being able to see in such a new environment is difficult for him.
 Every day, Darius goes out onto Deck 7 for some fresh air. The light hurts his eyes, but he loves the fresh air. The crew managed to get Darius to come out of his shell and lifted his spirits.
 One of Darius’ favorite activities is stretching. He can be seen stretching up high –
with a large smile on his face.
 Darius also became good friends with photographer JJ Tiziou.
 JJ takes Darius up to play the crew piano. Darius has a strong love for music.
Darius leaves the ship. Even though the sun is bright for his eyes, he finds freedom in being able to walk out of the hospital.

Junior - and the lame shall walk...

The motto of Mercy Ships is: We follow the 2000 year old model of Jesus by being love in action so that the blind shall see, the lame shall walk and the sick shall be healed. The next 3 stories (penned by the ship's writer) are to here to show how the transformation happens in each of our patients. It's not just the surgery, that's an important step for sure, but it's soooo much more...

"Junior’s mother sat in the physical therapy tent with her son. It had been two years since Junior received surgery on his legs – a surgery that changed their lives forever. She desperately longed to tell their story and let the world hear the great things that have happened in their lives. So, while Junior got his two-year-follow-up examination, his mother wrote down their story:

Junior was born premature at seven months, so he stayed at the hospital for four months. At age one, Junior started walking, and I realize that the two knees were bending out to the side. But I thought that because he is big or fat that this was causing that, but as he was growing, it was getting worse. The walking became a burden for him, and he needed me to carry him. People, neighbors in our area, used to make fun of him. His friends and even his own brother laughed at him and chased him to insult Junior when he does something. Some even forget the name ‘Junior’ and call him ‘Club Foot.’”

“When other children play football, he was just spectator because he could never play. But each time, he used to tell those who made fun of him, ‘My legs will be straight one day.’ Junior would bring some of the kids to me to confirm that ‘I will have straight leg.’”

“One day, I saw Handicap International car passing, and I asked them if they can help my son, and they tell us bring him the next day. Back home, I told Junior I have found people who can help us. And he started telling people that the ‘people who are going to help me have come.’ Unfortunately we went, and they said junior’s case is not in their program.”

So one day, in 2010, I heard about Mercy Ships, and Junior said, ‘Yes, this is the white people that are going to help me!’ So, he was in a big rush to come for screening, and he was so excited to be selected for surgery.”

“Back home after surgery, he was having straight legs, and he said to brothers, ‘Didn’t I tell you these people are going to help me?’”

“So people are happy. Junior has such a good testimony – a positive testimony that always generates good and blessings! Now, Junior is playing football and running all the time.”

“I will like to take this opportunity to thank the Team of Mercy Ships. I’m encouraging you to do more to others in the same condition like us. I see Jesus’ mighty hand in Junior’s care. He removed the shame from me and Junior’s life. Thanks! May God bless you!”

Junior when he first arrived to Mercy Ships in 2010.

Junior was 6 years old when he first arrived to the Africa Mercy.

Junior after the surgery as he got discharged.
After a long day in coming to the ship for his follow-up appointment,
Junior rests in his mother’s arms.
Junior is very proud of his straight legs!

Infant Feeding Program

I personally LOVE the Infant Feeding Program, because the difference is so very visible within a few weeks. I posted some of these pictures before, but now you can read the full story from the pen of the ship's writers.

"The Mercy Ships hospital ship provides state-of-the-art medical care to some of the poorest countries in the world. In addition, the ship’s medical team offers many educational and assistance programs that support these medical services. For example, the Infant Feeding Program aids extremely malnourished infants in receiving vital nutrition.

Babies born with cleft lips and palates struggle to get enough milk. Jessica King, Mercy Ships Clinical Dietitian, explains the primary goals of the program: “My most important objective is to have the babies gain enough weight for surgery in a safe and timely manner. A cleft is a constantly visible deformity, and many times the mothers struggle with how their babies look. We build relationships with the mothers – emotional and social support is very important in encouraging them to continue caring for and loving their babies.”

The Infant Feeding Program helps approximately 20-30 infants throughout a field service. It even assists with weekly transportation costs to ensure that these infants come to the ship on a regular basis. Regular visits are essential to monitoring their progress and assessing any other medical problems they may have.

In addition to babies with cleft lips and palates, other severely malnourished babies are seen as well. They suffer from conditions such as tumors or noma, a gangrenous disease leading to tissue destruction of the face, especially the mouth and cheek. It is vitally important that these children gain sufficient weight prior to surgery.

One of the most common treatments used in the Infant Feeding Program is a natural food supplement derived from the moringa tree. The tree’s leaves are full of proteins and vitamins, and they can be eaten raw, dried, or cooked. The babies gain healthy weight while also boosting their immune systems.

One of the infants currently being treated is Komlan, who came to the ship when he was only 11 days old. The little boy’s 18-year-old mother was abandoned by her husband when he found out the baby had a cleft lip. In the first 11 days of his life, Komlan had already lost weight. After Mercy Ships nurses taught his mother some different feeding techniques, little Komlan was back on track and gaining weight. As a result, he received his life-transforming surgery, and his mother received much-needed support and encouragement.

Baby Atsou and his twin sister Obei are a startling example of the difference a cleft lip can make in an impoverished country where medical care is inaccessible. Atsou was born with a cleft lip, but his twin sister did not have the deformity. When they came to the Africa Mercy, they were five months old. Obei weighed 16 pounds, but little Atsou only weighed seven pounds. Severely malnourished, Atsou received a combination of Similac infant formula and moringa food supplement.

Atsou’s story has a very happy ending. He gained a healthy amount of weight and had a successful surgery to repair his cleft lip. His mother says, “I am so thankful. Now I don’t have to worry about my boy making it. Now he will be strong like his sister. I am just so thankful.” "
 Jessica King assesses Atsou on one of his weekly visits.
 Twins, Obei (left) and Atsou (right), illustrate the dramatic difference a cleft palate makes.
 Atsou is nearly 10 pounds lighter than his twin who weights a healthy 16 pounds.
 Atsou’s weight is cause for concern, and he is immediately helped with multiple supplements.
 Atsou suffers from both a cleft lip and a cleft palate.
 Atsou gained enough weight and is now ready for surgery.
 Komlan and his mother during one of their weekly visits.
 Komlan and his mother arrive for surgery. Komlan is now at a healthy weight.
 Five-month-old Atsou is severely malnourished, weighing only seven pounds.
 Atsou is now ready for his surgery – thanks to the Mercy Ships Infant Feeding Program.
 Atsou loves his sister, and she doesn’t even notice his cleft lip.
 Komlan after surgery. His mother is so happy!
 Komlan gets ready to leave the ship.
 Atsou is prayed for by the team before he is discharged.
                  Atsou has grown tremendously since his first trip to the Infant Feeding Program.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dental Projects

Another Off-Ship-Program is the dental service called Togo Smile. I wrote about the site here. Now I am just giving you the official story from the ship's writer:

"In addition to operating a state-of-the-art hospital ship to provide high-quality medical care to the world’s poor, Mercy Ships also provides dental care. In all of Togo, there are only eighteen dentists to serve 6 million people. As a result, during the 2012 Togo Field Service, a very large number of people sought treatment from Mercy Ships.

The Togo 2012 Dental Program was a phenomenal success. The central dental clinic in downtown Lomé provided dental services Monday through Friday throughout the field service.

To ensure fair access to appointments, Dental Team Leader, Sieh Moore, developed an innovative screening procedure. Sieh explains his method: “On Monday and Thursday mornings when patients are screened for service, dental team members first identify priority patients. Young children and people with extreme conditions are given appointments for treatment. The remaining appointment times for that screening day are then allocated randomly, sometimes to those first in line, sometimes to those at the end of the line. This method successfully eliminates the need to be first in line. As well, this method short-circuits any attempt to ‘sell’ a good spot in line.”

The volunteer dental professionals examined over 3,500 patients, and almost 8,400 procedures were completed. About 7,500 teeth were extracted, relieving much pain and suffering. Approximately 800 tooth cavities were filled, while 454 procedures for dentures or replacements were performed. Dental cleanings were provided to 324 patients. After receiving treatment, patients were given follow-up care items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.

The Mercy Ships Dental Program also delivered an effective dental health education program. All dental patients, plus over 800 primary and secondary school students, received basic oral health education. The waiting area doubled as the oral health education classroom. While patients waited for treatment, Comfort Yeboah explained the basics of dental hygiene.

The day-workers (local people hired by Mercy Ships) who were assigned to support the dental team received eight weeks of superb professional training in dental assisting, instrument sterilization and oral health education. This free training increases the professional dental care capacity in Togo.

Before the dental clinic served its first patient each day, Roses Wall and Abdulai Barrie worked tirelessly to ensure that all dental instruments were absolutely hygienic and ready for duty. Abdulai, originally from Sierra Leone, first came to Mercy Ships as a caregiver for his sister who needed foot surgery. His gift with languages and his keen enthusiasm made him a perfect candidate for a day-worker role. “I am so happy to be of help and especially to learn about dental sterilizing from Roses, who is a wonderful teacher. I was so excited to continue my work with Mercy Ships in Togo, and now I am looking forward to going to Guinea,” he said.

Clinic days were also held at the Lomé Prison and at the UN Refugee Camp in East Lomé. Medical staff at the prison and at the refugee camp identified potential dental patients to fill the available appointment slots. Those most in need of treatment, especially children, were given priority.

For example, six-year-old Komla had suffered for a year with two painful teeth. While working at the market to sell grain, his mother heard about the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic. They came to the Monday screening at the clinic, and on Friday Komla had his teeth fixed. His grateful mother said, “I am so relieved for Komla, that he will no longer be up all night with his toothaches. I want him to do well in school, and, with healthy teeth, he can study hard.”

This deep appreciation for the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic was echoed in the Lomé prison. Theodore, an inmate who had never had dental treatment, said, “Because Mercy Ships is here and took out my three bad teeth, my horrible pain will be gone.”

Another inmate, Pascal, had been to a dentist once in his life, but this time he didn’t have the money to get his two broken and decayed teeth treated. “I never thought that I would have the generosity of Mercy Ships to fix my mouth. I will be able to eat without pain again,” he gratefully explained.

Yaovi, a recent arrival at the prison, was deeply thankful for the dental treatment he received from Mercy Ships. “A bad tooth made me so desperate with pain that I tried to remove the tooth myself. But it just got worse, and my whole face swelled up. It is a miracle to me that Mercy Ships is here helping prisoners. God bless you!” he exclaimed.

At the UN Refugee Camp, people welcomed free access to dental care. Manien, who arrived at the Refugee Camp from Cote d’Ivoire over a year ago, was virtually incapacitated with four extremely decayed and crumbling teeth. “Mercy Ships is giving me my life back again. After suffering for so many months, my ability to eat and speak normally is being returned,” she said.

Marie Claire, who has been in the refugee camp for a year with her daughter Debora, joyfully said, “My daughter has been in so much pain, and there was just no money for treatment or even pain medication. My only hope was prayer, and now, by the grace of God, Debora is blessed with professional dental care from Mercy Ships.”

Debora was fortunate that the two decayed teeth were baby teeth. In time, her permanent teeth will grow in. With her new toothbrush and toothpaste, her teeth should stay healthy. “We have been given a new start, and we will make sure we do our part to keep Debora’s teeth in good condition,” her mother declared."

The Mercy Ships Dental Program for the 2012 Togo Field Service was delivered in a convenient central location in downtown Lomé.

Dental Team Leader, Sieh Moore, and the fine team of volunteer dental professionals, including Roseann Farinacci to the right of Sieh, provided healing from painful dental conditions to thousands of patients in Togo. An estimated 4,000 dental patients were served during the entire field service.

Every Mercy Ships Dental Clinic patient was provided with helpful after-treatment information and support, including toothpaste and a toothbrush. By serving thousands of people, Mercy Ships provided a good boost to oral health awareness in Togo.

The Mercy Ships Dental Clinic was a beehive of activity as it operated weekdays during the Togo 2012 Field Service. Dr. Doug Daehlin and Dr. Sandra Pedanou, two of the volunteer dentists during this field service, loved working with such a professional and caring team.

Another much-loved volunteer dentist was Dr. Doug Daehlin – fondly known as the “Hallelujah Dentist.” When Dr. Doug extracted a particularly stubborn tooth, he would sing out, “Hallelujah!” Without a doubt, the thousands who have received dental treatment from Mercy Ships would love to join Dr. Daehlin in his triumphant shout.

Abdulai Barrie learned a great deal about dental sterilization from his tutor and mentor, Roses Wall.

At the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic at Lomé Prison, patients were given a final check before receiving dental treatment. Patients were eager to be pain-free and to be able to eat normally again after the removal of decayed and broken teeth.

The Mercy Ships Dental Team started their day in thanks and appreciation for being able to share such important hope and healing through their volunteer efforts. In Togo, there are only eighteen dentists available to serve a population of over 6 million people.

Comfort Yeboah, who provided vital information about dental care and oral hygiene, was a favorite of all audiences. Her engaging and warm presentation style made learning so enjoyable.

Dr. Sandra Pedanou, originally from Togo, earned her dentistry credentials in Germany and is now practicing in a public health clinic in Norway. Dr. Sandra volunteered with the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic for three weeks as a way of giving back to her country.

Debora, a nine-year-old patient at the UN Refugee Camp, was fortunate that the two decayed teeth that were removed were baby teeth. With proper dental care, starting with using the toothpaste and toothbrush provided by Mercy Ships, Debora will maintain a full and healthy set of teeth.

The Mercy Ships Dental Team took time to pose for a photo with the 3000th patient of the 2012 Togo Field Service. The delivery of dental treatment and education services provided a good boost to dental health and capacity building in Togo.