Friday, June 22, 2007

The Africa Mercy

This is a picture of a few of the girls that I arrived in Monrovia with. Kassi on the left is my roommate. Behind us, you can see the back of the ship. I've had lots of questions about what ship life is like, so I'll try to describe it. There are around 450 of us living on the ship. There are 8 decks. Decks 1 and 2 are the engine rooms and off-limits to the rest of the crew. Deck 3 is the hospital. They're still putting the finishing touches on it, but hopefully it'll be ready for surgeries at the beginning of the week. I also live on Deck 3. Deck 4 is housing. Deck 5 is a dining hall, reception, the ship shop and snack shop, offices, and Starbucks. I guess one of the big wigs on the Starbucks board is also on our board, so all of the coffee onboard is free from them. There's a big open staircase that runs between Decks 5 and 6 near the internet cafe and Starbucks. I hear a lot of people calling that the town square. It's almost like it's a little city. Also, the gangway enters on Deck 5 beside reception. Deck 6 is the International lounge, which is where we have all of our community meetings, and then some family, VIP, and guest cabins. Deck 7 is more offices and then an open area where you can go "sit on the porch". Deck 8 is the top and is a flat deck that you can walk around on some, but right now there's a bunch of stuff still up there that was strapped down during the sail here from England.

I'm living in a cabing that has 3 berths, 2 people/berth, so there will be 6 of us total. Right now there are 4 and our 5th arrives this evening. She's also from the States, but I don't know where. So far I like the girls I live with. I share my berth with a girl from Canada. The other 2 girls are from Canada and Scotland. We have a bunk that folds against the wall, a narrow closet and two shelves. Backpacking in the past was good preparation for packing light and making do with not so much stuff. We can only do laundry once and week and can only take 2 minute showers. That means you have to get wet, suds up, and then rinse off. No 30 minute steaming showers, or you run out of water to drink! Sometimes they have to go on water restrictions, so I'd rather conserve than do competely without. It's not bad, but it is different getting used to things. Most of us came to Africa expecting to be very hot. That's true outside, but inside there are places on the ship that get very cold! I think the hospital will be fairly warm because the Liberians won't tolerate the cold well when they're used to tropical weather.

We start surgeries this coming week once the hospital is completed. The first surgeries will be VVF(vesico-vaginal fistula) repairs. These are women who have tried to deliver their babies at home, which is common practice. (Actually they are considered weak if they go somewhere else to deliver.) For various reasons the labor goes poorly and they are often in labor for 4-5 days. Obviously the baby dies, and the mother is left with terrible tissue damage. It forms a fistula, or tunnel, between the birth canal and their bladder, so then they leak urine all the time. Of course it smells and they become outcasts. Usually their husbands and the rest of their families want nothing to do with them. Having the repair allows them to return to life with the rest of their community. I think the plan is to also do some eye cases and orthopaedics over the next couple months. I'm nervous because the work will be very different than at home, but I'm also excited to get started.


Mary said...

Looks/sounds like you are adjusting well to the whole thing. 2 minute showers is scary! I hope the hospital is up and running on time, sounds like they need some help. What's with these home birthing people? Are they nuts? :)

You're description of the ship makes me want to visit. Enjoy your Starbucks.

Matt and Mindy said...

Ok, at the risk of sounding pathetic, I watched an Oprah on the fistula issues in Africa. It was SOOOo sad! I'm glad that you get to be a part of helping girls/women restore normalcy to their lives! What an honor.

Love you!

wendy said... starbucks...too bad it is hot there! anyway, I know you will do awesome with the upcoming surgeries, you are careful, thorough, and you genuinely care about people.

I miss you :)