Many people do not realize just how many people it takes to keep a vessel like Mercy Ships going. When I tell them that there are an average of 400 people on board at one time, they are astonished. Working in the operating room often gives one a sense of isolation – after all, access is restricted, and you must have the right clothes and credentials to enter.
When arriving on Mercy Ships, we are advised that while we may take photos of the ship and the surrounding area, we are not to take photos of the patients and their families in order to respect their privacy. They do have photographers on board who are part of the Mercy Ships team, and we are allowed access to their photos for the purpose of spreading the message about what they do and the people who serve.
The wards on the ship – there are five including the ICU are just like the old-fashioned patient wards, with several beds in each room. One of the most surprising things I found was that when the patient has a family member they want to have with them in the ward, the family member sleeps on a mattress beneath their family member’s bed! It gave me quite a start when I saw feet sticking out from under a child’s bed for the first time. The day crew in the credit above have various functions – many are the very necessary translators needed throughout the day. Malagasy is language with occasional terms that resememble French and others that resemble nothing I have ever seen.
Saturday I was on call and thus I could not leave the ship or at least the perimeter of the ship, so I was walking around the top deck in the afternoon when I heard noise below. I asked someone what was going on, and they said that on Saturdays, they try to take patients to Deck 7 to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. On Deck 7 there is a swing set and a play area for the children on board, so there are a number of children who enjoy this outing, but the adults enjoy it too!
With all of the orthopedic cases as well as the plastic cases involving burn contractures, much of the healing and therapy occurs in the rehab center. There, they are put through exercises and routines to assist them in using their new limbs or to regain function after surgery.
One of the famous patients on board is Elina – it seems that almost everyone knows her. She has had multiple surgeries to correct severe contractures that resulted from a very bad burn. She is going non-stop and loves playing pranks on the staff. Her indomitable spirit in spite of all that she has endured is truly humbling.
Words we can all stand to remember!