March 25, 2010

DSC_9919 copy, originally uploaded by Photo2217.

March 25th, 2010
In my cabin…top bunk…11:30pm

This is my third consecutive evening writing. Perhaps the season of not blogging has come to an end. Still I sit here divided of what subject matters to write. Do I write about the great bbq we had dockside or do I write about the wonderful patients I met in our hospital ward? My heart beats and leaps for both and will try to write the day’s events as best possible.

Today at approximately 9am I began my photographic rounds by strapping on my camera and heading down the blue stairs towards ward B. The high school gals are following some of our lead nurses as career training week continues. Instantly, the two high school girls had their scrubs, latex gloves, and bubbles at hand. The scrubs = part of the uniform, The Latex gloves = to stay clean, The bubbles = patient pain mgmt (kids love bubbles). What more could they need?

Of course, when I am down on the ward, every nook and cranny I find a great photo opportunity, but I am not overzealous photographer. In fact, I take my time looking for that special photograph(s) of the day. We certainly found them today. Kids playing everywhere and nurses loving every patient as much as possible. (Photos will be posted down the road).

I then continued on to ward A, and visited and photographed any follow ups to the patient stories we are currently covering. It just takes a few moments to walk in and say hello, and in a few more minutes, we’re friends.

Went over to see Farouck too. He’s such a brave lil fella. He’s undergone so many surgeries and still is such a champ. He requested that I take photos of him with the outpatient crew and so we snapped a couple. What fun.

The admissions tent was rather lively today. Lots of patients dockside. I tried to go by and say hello to each and every one of them. Mehza, our translator helped say hello to many people in both French and Ewe. The people are incredible. The bored faces of the people suddenly turn into smiles as I confess to them all my funny/bizarre life stories. I do my best to entertain them while I am out there. Primarily so that they would feel comfortable with me as I begin to photograph their journey while with us on the ship.

The more important reason is that there isn’t much to do on dockside. They sit under a canopy and wait to be called to the various rooms to be seen by a doctor, nurse, optometrist, dentist, physical therapist, speech therapist, etc. But it’s also the very life vein of the ship. Since everyone first goes to the dock to register their arrival, it’s also the spot to meet every person imaginable. We have the orthopedic, max fax, cleft lip, infant feeding program, dental, and eye folks waiting. Sometimes there are significantly more West Africans than others but today we had a moderate crowd. At one given time, there must have been at least 50 patients in the outside/dockside “waiting room.” As I mentioned before, there isn’t much to do out there but wait. They have water and are given a slice a bread with butter while waiting, but it tends to get a bit hot out there. The kids don’t have any toys, bubbles, or stickers to play with so they usually take naps on their mommies or on the bench. I always think it would be great to have a drama/puppet/or clown show for everyone out there, but I come from the old missionary YWAM thought. Either way, I find ways of making the crowd laugh, and can take some fun photos along the way. It would be wonderful if we could set up some type of ministry just to entertain the waiting area on our dock. They West Africans would enjoy it tremendously.

I go around following all the other patients and run into so many of the patients I first met. All of which are on some part of the healing journey. We have already begun to see some amazing transformations, and it blesses my heart to have taken a small part in that healing.

It should bless you my friends, since you have taken a part in their healing too. We are all part of one body and just because you aren’t here on the ship, or you aren’t a doctor, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t all have a part in these success stories. I get tons of emails and facebook messages from you and it such a blessing. I covet your prayers daily. Without prayer this ship would surely sink!

The rest of the afternoon was a mellow one. I spent some time in the office and then we were interrupted by a fire drill which pretty much concluded the end of the day. It was the bday of the ship and we celebrated by having a giant bbq out on the dock tonight. The weather was perfect and we all had such a wonderful time. I have made some really wonderful friends while being here. I am so thankful for them, and the life stories we’ve shared together. We had a chance to catch up on our day during the bbq too.

After the bbq, I went back into the ward and began a special relationship with our newly admitted patients. I take a translator and introduce myself. “My name is Elizabeth; I am a photographer on the ship. It is so very nice to meet you. I hope everything is going well for you as you are getting use to the ward. The doctors have asked me to photograph you before and after your operation for the medical files. If this is a good time for you, would you like to come with me to our studio?” I say that phrase every other night to about eight patients. Sometimes I smile from ear to ear. Other times I want to cry and try to conceal a tear that is coming out of the corner of my eye.

This is the first time I have written about this part of my job, because it’s such a sensitive portion of it. But it’s also my favorite part. I get to be in a studio, on a white sheet, with some of the most precious people you’ll ever meet. They hike up their hospital gowns, or open their mouth, or tilt their timorous head, to expose what has made them feel so very bad for so very long. They expose the bones that prevent them from walking, going to school, or playing soccer. They show me the smelly, open, puss filled facial tumors that have caused their spouses to walk out on them. They show me everything in that makeshift studio, and I do my job. I photograph. I get the image. But I get the pain too. Sometimes their very little faces will not even look at me in the camera. Sometimes, they apologize six times for the foul odor that trails them. And each time, I reassure them, that they are beautiful. God has made each of us, and we are all beautiful. I have had a few patients cry after I have spoken those words to them. One translator once told me, that it was the first time anyone had ever told them that they were beautiful. (tears) I escort them back to their rooms, say goodbye, and remind them that today they made a new friend, and her name is Elizabeth. I introduce myself as ChaChiTa to the kids since that is my family nickname. They get a big kick out of that.

A few of the other patients are in the beds nearby. They call out my name (Smiles, Elizabeth, ChaChiTa, yovo) doesn’t make a difference to me, and they’re ready for me to visit. So I go by each of the beds and play with them for a bit, teach them Spanish, and pray for them. It’s the best time of my day. The best time of my life truly.

I taught a little boy, Roger who only speaks EWE to use my camera while sitting in bed recovering from surgery. He photographed his father, the hospital director, and me as his first photographic subjects. He’s a talented kid. As I said goodbye I taught him “Hasta Manana” and he repeated it…”hasta manana”
When suddenly the little 5 year old boy next to us said the exact same words with a really good Spanish accent. So I taught him hola…Buenos dias…adios…hasta manana…todo bien…and he just kept repeating them over and over again.

I could go on and on and on of all the really cool things that take place on this ship. But its past midnight now and I must get some rest, only God knows what adventures wait for us tomorrow.


Ali C. said…
"They hike up their hospital gowns, or open their mouth, or tilt their timorous head, to expose what has made them feel so very bad for so very long."

I woke up 5 minuts ago and you've already made me cry. That moment is so precious and awful and you've captured it in words.
lindsay said…
I'm so glad you are here to be a part of the healing that happens for the patients. I'd never thought before about how in order for you to do your job, the patients must bare the very parts of them that cause their families and communities to draw back. Thank you for such a beautiful word picture... and for being so gentle with the patients.

Looking forward to getting to know you more as the year goes on!

Popular Posts