Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yovo Chicken

Last weekend I went back to Ghana with some friends. We went back to Wli Falls and this time climbed to the upper falls. It took about an hour and a half to get up. Scrambling up rocks and using roots to pull ourselves up. It was wonderful! A great weekend with wonderful friends.

After the waterfall we went and visited Lovelace and her family again. We decided to bring them some food so off to the market we went. It's nice to be out of the big city and in a smaller town market. People don't yell at you and you can just look around. You still get the occasional "Yovo!" but it doesn't seem to bother me as much. Fish, eggs, spices, rice, bread, fruit, roasted corn, palm oil... we were ready to surprise them with our purchases. We started down the road and came across a man selling live chickens... Yes! We walked away carrying a plump yovo chicken! There are many sad, scary looking chickens, but this was going to be a good meal, I could tell! We were all so full of excitement and laughter and we carried the yovo chicken to meet its new family.

When we arrived at their house, they were not there. Finding out from the neighbor boy that they were still at church, we waited for an hour and a half before they returned. We had been followed to their house by a small mob of children so we had plenty of kids to keep us occupied until their return.

They all pulled up in a taxi looking their finest from church, then my heart dropped. Lovelace looked lovely, but you could tell she's not doing well. She is now unable to walk because of the pains in her legs and hips. She is getting thinner as the tumors are growing. Michael, her father, has told us she is not eating much either. Esther, her mother, went and bought her a fan ice, ice cream in a sachet, and squeezed it into the corner of her mouth. She is so uncomfortable. We can offer ways to help her be more comfortable, but please pray her pain will go away.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mighty Ships

On the sail here from Tenerife to Togo we were joined on board by a video team from the discovery channel in Canada. They were filming Mercy Ships for their show Mighty Ships. Tomorrow night, June 23, you can finally watch the show! For those of my friends not from Canada I am pretty sure you can watch it online. If any of you watch it, let me know how it is! We can't watch anything online from the ship. They were everywhere here...waxing the floors and setting up the wards, screening day and eating, we had video cameras filming us. I would love to see it but I will have to wait until I get home. Check it out!

Monday, June 14, 2010


I get asked what I do when I'm not working. Well, Tuesday evenings I go with a small group to the hospitality center to knit. The hospitality center is a place where patients go after their surgeries, if they are from far away, so they can come back to the ship daily or a few days a week for post-op appointments. It's a wonderful place for them. The wards don't have windows because they are below the water line. They get to go outside once a day to deck 7 for an hour. At the hospitality center they spend the majority of their time outside. They have room to run and play. It's a great place to go to hang out with the patients. I love going on Tuesday nights. I am never able to speak with the patients because there are very few translators there, but that's ok. Somehow you don't need verbal language to teach knitting.

Every week I think of Grandma Daphne, my grandmother who taught me how to knit. I know it would make her smile to know what I am doing with a skill she taught me. She was a wonderful knitter!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Faces of VVF

Before posting pictures, I want to share a couple stories of the VVF ladies.

First, Rosali. Rosali had her surgery and although she was dry, she was retaining urine. She wasn't able to fully empty her bladder after she went pee. She was taught how to catheterize herself as she was going to have to do this at home. The longer she was on the ship though, the more she was able to empty her bladder and the day she left she didn't have to catheterize herself anymore. Rosali went home dry and healed! The day she left I went to give her a hug and to celebrate with her. She gave me a hug then grabbed my hand and rubbed it on her bottom and exploded with a huge smile and loud laugh. She had wanted me to feel how dry she was and this brought her so much joy!

Then there is Adjovi. What to say about Adjovi... She occupies a corner bed and I can't help but smile and laugh when I look at her. She has had two surgeries already in the short time she has been here and although she is finally dry, she too is retaining urine like Rosali. Please pray this changes and she will be able to empty her bladder and not have to go home with catheters. She just makes me laugh though. Whenever I look over at her bed she is always sitting up talking. Talking to who? Maybe she's praying, but this woman likes to talk. She speaks Tchicossi, a dialect from the north of Togo that only one translator on the ship speaks. When I walk past her bed or she comes over to where I am, she will talk and I will nod my head and smile. She knows I can't understand her and I'll talk to her knowing she can't understand me. I love these moments of speaking but not having a clue what the other person is saying. It happens so often here with patients, with friends from other countries, with taxi drivers or people in the market. I think Adjovi just needs someone to talk to.

Here are some pictures of the ladies. Some are from the screening day and some are from the first dress ceremony on the ship when the women are dry and get a new dress and we celebrate!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


My mom reads my blog to her fourth grade class and one of her students wrote this poem. I thought it was great so I wanted to share:

The Africa Mercy
Where lives are saved
Where saving the world
Is what you want
To do and making our
World the best it can
Be, To where you have
Joy to help others and
To see others as best
As can be

By Raven

Thanks Raven!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Aissa Update

After I just posted about Lovelace, I was reading up on friends blogs and came across this update on Aissa. Aissa and Lovelace were on the ward at the same time. Two small girls with two very different problems. Sarah is the PA who met Aissa in Cameroon and came with her to the ship.

Here is a picture of Aissa the day she left the ship...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lovely Lovelace

This past weekend Jane and I traveled a little over two hours to Ho, Ghana to visit Lovelace and her family. She lives in a small home with her father Michael, Esther her mother and younger brother Bright. Lovelace is five. She was a patient on the ship for six weeks or so. She has two tumors that cannot go unnoticed. One growing out of the right side of her mouth and the other out of the top of her head. It's impossible not to notice them. It's impossible not to notice how her bottom teeth are folding back on themselves, pushing her tongue to the left side of her mouth and how her top teeth are biting into the tumor. Impossible not to notice the large bandage on top of her head from where the tumor popped open, leaving a large gaping hole. Impossible not to notice her thin frame, arms and legs thin as sticks. How she walks, almost like an old woman who has had a lifetime to build her body up to the aches and pains in her hips.

I remember the day she was admitted to A-ward. Someone had mentioned there was a little girl coming in with a large tumor. I didn't imagine there was more than one tumor. The one in her mouth has been growing about three years now. The one on her head, only a year. Yes. I said only a year. This fast growing tumor is taking over. A scan was done and showed there is no bone where the tumor is growing. It has eaten it away.

Lovelace and her father came to the ship to have a biopsy done to see if there was anything any surgeons on the ship could do for her. The biopsy was taken after treating her for malaria, and although the lab had what they needed from the biopsy, the tissue had to be sent to another lab to be processed. This is not uncommon. Tissues are frequently sent overseas to labs in the states or Europe. They waited on the ship for the results. They waited and waited and waited. The results were taking weeks to get back to the ship so they decided the best option was to go home until the results came back. If they needed to, they could easily be back to the ship in a day. The results came back finally and the tumors are not something that can be treated here on the ship. She has been to numerous doctors to seek help. Lovelace and her father traveled to the states a year ago in December to seek treatment there, but she was too sick at the time. Her father showed us pictures of her standing in the snow in Baltimore. Quite the contrast of sitting in her home and thinking of her standing in the snow. If you ask her if she likes the snow, she answers with a quick NO!

We had wanted to take their whole family to Wli Falls, the tallest waterfall in West Africa on Sunday. We met them at the tro-tro station but only Michael, her father, was there. She wasn't feeling up to the two hour trip. The three of us went but I couldn't help but think of Lovelace the whole day, wondering how she was doing. After the trip to the falls we went back to their home and Esther made us banku and fish. Esther is a wonderful cook. She had made us fufu with a sauce with chicken the day before. Amazing dishes! To watch Lovelace eat is amazing. This girl has adapted to having over half her mouth filled with an invader. When she closes her mouth, her teeth don't touch. She shoves her food into the corner of her mouth and use her tongue to grind any meat. It takes awhile, but she manages.

I think of her daily and wonder how she is. To look at her now, since she has left the ship, two more growths have started on her face. Once above her right eye and another by her left ear. The life of this beautiful girl is in the hands of God. Please pray for her. Pray for her daily that she will be without pain and that God will do a miracle.