We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 18) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Douala, Cameroon, Central Africa on the M/V Africa Mercy, the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, through Mercy Ships International. God has called us on a journey that has been many years in the making. For this season we call Africa home, as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Going Down?

If you  have been reading our blog you will have read about Andrew's hard work on the ship's boat motors. So it was pretty exciting when we were able to go out in them. Our first was a night trip on the rescue boat. Above I am looking pretty special in all my safety gear. No gear, no go!

We are parked alongside the side of the Africa Mercy in the rescue boat. This vessel would be used for rescue situation such as man overboard. Hopefully it will never be used for anything but fun! It was pretty spooky as we headed out past the breakwater into the open seas. With just a very small light inside the boat to illuminate our way the moonless evening wrapped itself around us. The salty ocean sprayed in our faces. What a thrill!

Going down-yikes!

This is one of the Africa Mercy's smaller lifeboats. I don't think I would like to be stuck in one of these for any length of time! They are equipped with seasickness meds but still..... Lucky for us, as a family, we are allocated to one of the larger 150 seat lifeboats that are covered.

Ready to go for our early morning spin in the lifeboat, as you do!

Andrew loves to take the helm. He is pretty good at operating the boats now and takes great pride in their upkeep.

One of our youngest crew members, one year old Daniel or should I say "Captain Daniel"?

Andy and Jess.

Me (Jodie) with the wind in my bed hair!

Local lads out fishing. Everyone was very friendly and most curious to see the boat full of white people (or yovos as we are called in Togo) in all their life jackets. What a sight we must be for the locals. Then again we saw a few sights ourselves as it turns out that fishermen are not shy about standing naked in their canoes!

Going up!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sibi Julie

Cleft lip patient Sibi Julie won hearts when her mum, Odette brought her the screening day in February. Sibi Julie, nicknamed Fuzzy, was one of the first patients to come aboard for surgery on the Africa Mercy for the Togo 2012 field service. The children of West Africa are beautiful both inside and out. They are affectionate and not one bit shy. It is not unusual to have children jump into your lap on first meeting or to take your hand and smile up at you. Last week Andrew and I saw patient Ali with his mum in the hallways of the wards. Despite the fact that Andrew has never met him and I have only seen him asleep, he ran to us with open arms, a huge grin on his little face. Ali very proudly showed us his Mickey Mouse nappy and then proceeded to try to check on the status of mine and Andrew's nappy-lol. Such is the innocence and curiosity of the children here.

Sibi Julie posing for her patient photo at the screening day.

This is the sweetest photo. Two days post surgery, having her temperature taken beside her sleeping mama, you can already see the amazing transformation of Sibi Julie.

Poor Sibi looks a little shell shocked but you can see where she gets her looks. Four days post op posing with gorgeous mum, Odette. 

How could you resist?

Four days post op......ever wondered where all the knitted teddies and dolls go to? Well each child on the Africa Mercy gets one for starters! Andrew was fortunate to be able to watch children receive their Good Samaritan Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes at the Jesus film screening a few weeks ago. It is amazing to be at the end of the line!

Wow-returning to the ship for a follow up appointment. What a transformation!

A few months on Sibi Julie has made a wonderful recovery. With this surgery her life will be spared from ridicule and isolation. She will be able to eat properly and attend school without the fear of rejection. All in day's work!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dr. Rothwell: Encore performance (Caution-contains graphic images)

It's a brand new field service and that means that I get to sign up for my "one per field Service" slot to view a surgery in the OR. I chose a great day as one of the very talented Mercy Ships photographers was present to capture the moment. Usually you can only take a photo as you go in and one wide angle shot inside the operating theatre. So here I am ready to go, all suited up with my hands either by my side or behind my back, staying well clear of the sterile area.

Yes-it really is me! FYI-PCG stands for Primary Care Giver i.e Mum. You will see that is my number one job!

It is very interesting to observe the dynamics in the OR. Despite the seriousness of what is being done, everyone still manages to have a little fun. Above is Dr. Gary Parker, our next door neighbour and maxillo facial surgeon extraordinaire. Gary and his wife Susan have been with Mercy Ships for almost 25 years, starting as singles, then marrying and have two children, Wesley and Carys. Gary is much revered on board the ship for his humility, his skill and his dedication to the organisation and the poorest of poor. Many have quoted him and perhaps one of his most famous quotes is that "Everyone has the right to look human".

After watching Dr Gary work his magic for a while, I moved operating rooms to view the just as talented and dedicated Dr Tertius Venter, plastic surgeon. What I witnessed was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The miracle of the human body never fails to impress and under the skillful hands of Tertius and his team a man's life has been restored. A young man who suffered hideous burns and has lived for many years with terrible contractures that rendered his hand and arm almost useless and scarred his face. Above Dr. Venter marks out where he will make his incisions.

The first cuts are made to release the contracture inside the man's elbow.

Fellow Aussie and OR Nurse, Zoe explains things to me.

Watching intently.

I have a pretty cast iron stomach for all things morbid and bloody but this made me cringe. Even the seasoned OR nurses had interesting looks on their faces. After the various contractures were cut, Dr. Tertius and Dr. Tina had the dubious task of putting all their strength in releasing the contracture. They pulled back very hard until a rather awful "pop" was audible.

The contracture released. The hand once fused to the arm at the wrist is now free!

In order to keep the arm straight a metal rod is inserted down the length of the arm from wrist to elbow. The end of the rod is left exposed so it can be removed in the coming weeks.

Zoe and I enjoying a lighter moment.

Aussie plastic surgeon Tina stitching up some of the smaller incisions.

This was awesome. I watched Dr Tertius shave the thinnest sliver of skin from this man's thigh then thread the skin through a special machine. The skin came out of the machine as a mesh, allowing it to spread and cover so much more of the gaping wound. The OR nurses explained to me that over the next few weeks the skin will grown and fill in to fully cover the open wound. It is amazing that God made this wonderful thing we call skin, stretchy and elastic, to protect our bodies. It is amazing that God gave the idea to someone to use skin in such a way.

Bandaging up!

The "mercy" part of Mercy Ships really shines. Holistic health care-body, mind and spirit is the aim. Before each patient goes into surgery, crew gather around them to lift them up to God and to pray over them. Watching these gifted surgeons is a great privilege and knowing that lives are changed forever through their hands is something special!


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Tenki, Merci Beaucoup!

Late last year the Africa Mercy communications produced this clip to pay homage to the supporters of the crew members on board. Almost every crew member pays their own way to and from the Africa Mercy, monthly crew fees, insurance and all other personal expenditure. Without faithful financial support from others, this would not be possible. Whilst we do not feature in this clip we know most of those in it. Some are long term crew, some short term and some come and go and come again.

Their message is heartfelt as is ours. We want to say thank you to all those who have supported us previously when we completed in our training in 2006, some who have joined to support us once again, thank you to those who have joined us for our current season with Mercy Ships and thank you to our new supporters who have partnered with us in 2012.

Thank you to those who pray for us, email us, read our blog and encourage us when we think we cannot go on another day. Without you all we could not do what we are doing serving the poorest of the poor in the nations of West Africa.

BBQ in Africa

A few weeks ago we had the first of several day worker/crew BBQ and community meetings. It was a roaring success. Each Thursday evening the crew gather in the International Lounge for community meeting which runs similar to a western church service. Not this time! This was the time for the African crew to shine. Above is Andrew in the looonnnggg food line.

Hot dogs on the barbie.

No meal is complete on the Africa Mercy without first sanitising ones hands. Luckily the sanitisers have recently gone portable.

Leah, our fellow Tassie crew member tucking in.

Jessica has began a phase of smiling for the camera but just as I press the shutter she makes a face. She will live to regret it on her 21st birthday-lol! Mum an Dad will have the last laugh!

Not quite Aussie BBQ fare (miss!) but the US version!

Crew Services day worker, Titus who also worked on the Africa Mercy in Sierra Leone. It is fun when the day workers follow the ship from country to country. We don't have to say goodbye and we can get to know them even better! I was so excited last week to "run into" Idrissa, a day worker from the dental team in Sierra Leone, last weekend at a local pool. He married a crew member last Thursday and will be living on board as short term crew for two months before he and his new wife move on land.

The party really kicked off when the djembes began!


The mosh pit got going and after a while I was brave enough to jump into the throng of hot and sweaty crew and day workers dancing, clapping and jumping to the throbbing beat of the djembe and the rousing lyrics of West African worship songs.

Time to quite down for the meeting as we celebrated the nations represented and how no matter our cultural differences we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen!