Thursday, August 2, 2007

Coming and Going

It's been a long time since I've been able to write here. First I was too busy at work to be able to blog, and then over the weekend the satellite was turned off. I'll put more about that at the end of this entry. Still no luck uploading pictures. Sorry. I guess I'll have a lot to show when I come home!

As is the way with life, there has been a lot of coming and going here on the ship over the last few weeks. We tend to only have any particular surgeon here for a few weeks at a time, so the types of surgeries we're doing changes frequently. We finished the first round of VVF surgeries. All of them went home. Many went home with successful repairs, but not all. Some will return in the fall for another attempt. It's humbling to see some of those with enough damage that they couldn't have a successful repair still going about the work of being an encouragement to each other. I'm pretty sure I would not be as strong. One who had a successful repair returned to the ship a couple days ago because of an infection. I think she'll be OK, but it's scary for her. I have to admit, that as you get to know the ladies you can't help but love them. I was sorry to see Quita have an infection, but it's nice to see her beautiful smile again for a while. We are also doing quite a bit of orthopedic surgery right now. The surgeons that were here the first few weeks of ortho are pediatric surgeons, so we've done a lot of kids. I like the kids, but I can't say that I enjoy taking care of them. I'm much more comfortable caring for adults. It's a growing experience!

We have also been doing a lot of eye surgeries. There's a fairly constant influx of outpatient procedures, like cataracts, but we've had more inpatient eye cases lately as well. Many come with all sorts of traumatic injuries to their eyes. Often (I put that word there for you, Marley:) the eye has been injured for so long that it's pretty grotesque to see. I can't imagine how uncomfortable it would be to have your eye swollen and knotty for more than 10 years let alone not being able to see. Many of those patients come hoping to have their sight restored. That's just not always an option. It's not fun to do pre-op teaching and have to make sure that the patient understands that after their surgery, not only will they not have full sight, we will be taking the eye out to prevent infection or other complications. It's a huge disappointment to them. It's somewhat the same with the dental clinic. There are some things that they can do to help people and preserve their teeth, but as a general rule, people come with teeth that have been in bad shape for a long time. A lot of what the dental team does is simple extractions. At home, just going without a few of your teeth would not be an acceptable option, but here it's better to lose your tooth than it is to have an infection that becomes systemic and kills you.

For the most part the last couple weeks had been pretty routine day to day stuff, work, hang out, watch movies, and go to Monrovia. Sunday changed the experience for many. One of our crew drowned at a local beach. The satellite was turned off until his family could be properly notified without it getting to them through the grapevine before someone was able to tell them in person. He was a 21 year old from Texas. Yesterday would have been his 22nd birthday. The rip currents here are incredibly strong and sadly on Sunday the sea won. It's not fun to be one of 400 people wandering around a ship not sure what to do with themselves. Three people that were at the beach with him have flown to Texas to attend his funeral. One of the three is my roommate. Another one of the three got the news that her grandpa had passed away the next day. Please keep them and his family in your prayers. It has hit all of us quite hard, even though many of us didn't know him very well. I can't imagine the shock, for his family, of receiving that news at home. I said, many comings and goings. I certainly never expected the kind of going that we had on Sunday. I knew before I came that this is a place that you're always meeting new people and saying goodbye to friends who have finished their term. I guess I didn't think much about how much it would also be difficult to say goodbye to the patients after getting to know them. It's fun, though, to get to know the new group of patients coming in. We have a file on the computer that the communications department is constantly updating with pictures of the different outreaches on the ship. It's quite impressive to look back at them. Since I've worked mostly with the VVF ladies, they are the ones that stand out to me the most. It's an encouragement to look at the pictures of them when they first arrive for screening and then see pictures or remember their faces when they go home. When you look back at the fear and sadness in their eyes when they arrived and see then see joyful pictures of them as they depart or remember their bubbly personalities that came out as they were here, you can't help but feel blessed with the privilege of getting to see that process. One encouraging thought is that you never know who's going to walk up the gangway tomorrow. You have to say goodbye a lot, but a dear friend may be walking up the gangway tomorrow if you're willing to take the time to get to know them. There is risk involved because you know that they or you will be leaving sometime in the probably not so distant future, but so often the reward is worth the risk!