30 July 2011


About two months ago, I was cleaning my watch when the strap broke.  I've had the watch for over two years, and it had served me well.

Now as you can imagine, I use my watch everyday and I rely on it for such things as telling me what time it is.  I couldn't/can't go with one.  Since the display and battery were just fine, I decided to cut off the other strap and but the watch on my lanyard, which also carries my key, name badge, and hand sanitizer (you never know when you'll need to clean your hands around here!).  In the mean time, I ordered a new watch, same style but different colors, from a major online retailer that I've ordered things from before.  

A few weeks later, my new watch arrived in the mail.  "Finally!" I thought.  When I finally made it through the many layers of packaging, a frown formed on my face upon realizing that the watch's display was blank.  Hmmm...maybe there was a plastic tab to pull out?  Nope.  Referring to the instructions (which was a poor photocopy of the real instructions) proved useless.  No matter what combination of buttons I pressed, the display remained blank.  Ugh.  

Chalking this up to an everyday inconvenience, I called customer support and explained my situation.  They offered to pay for the return of the watch and would then send me a new one.  Great.  I repackaged the timepiece and gave it to a visitor who was returning to the States.  Another few weeks later my replacement watch arrived at the ship.

Unfortunately, this watch was in the exact same condition as the previous one.  Real instructions this time, but still no numbers on the display.  Yes, you may groan in solidarity with me.  After weeks of sporting a naked wrist, I had been foiled again.  This time, I called customer support and told them I just want to return this one and be refunded.  Don't send me another one of your janky watches again.  So two weeks ago, I again repackaged the watch and gave it to a trustworthy crew member who would be returning to the states.  

A few days later, I get a Facebook message from my watch-couriering friend:
    • hey iv got a bit of bad news for you, that package you wanted me to send out was opened and the contents were stolen. i arrived in paris and noticed my bag had been ransacked so i opened it and the box was opened and the contents were laying all throught my suitcase except for what i assume was a watch judging by the instructions in the bottom of my bag. im terribly sorry that this happened
Yes.  DOUBLE UGH!  Upon receipt of this untimely news, I could only feel that this was an appropriate ending to this frustrating saga.  Needless to say, my strapless watch is still jangling around on the lanyard and my hopes of a nice watch-tan are zero to none.

26 July 2011


Today I began a new job.  You are now reading the blog of the Africa Mercy's OR Office Admin Assistant.

After nearly five months with the Eye Team, I learned that this position was opening.  At first, I wasn't sure if it was something I should pursue, but the more I thought about it, prayed about it, and talked to other people about it, I felt like this would be a positive move.

Situated by the entrance to the OR corridor, my new office is the powerhouse behind all the operations that Mercy Ships does.  Some of my duties include tracking supply usage, greeting new OR staff, answering phones and questions, escorting visitors through the OR's, assisting with scheduling, compiling and distributing the daily surgical schedule, and generally helping out Ginger and Missy, the OR Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor.  Today was only my first day, but I enjoy the fast pace of the job.  Always someone popping their head in the office.  I'm also hoping to brush up my tour guiding skills when visitors come to the OR.  One of the best parts of the job is the 8am start...sleeping in is always a blessing.

More to come soon!

seven links

Throughout my time spent at Rockbridge (my summer camp in Virginia), I have met incredible person after incredible person.  Anyone who has ever been there can attest to the amazing quality of the people who work and volunteer there.  Nina, a volunteer lifeguard I met in 2009, is one of these people.  She writes a pretty awesome (and funny!) blog over at ninaconcepcion.blogspot.com.  She will soon be moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and I know that her blog will reflect her adventures there.  Lots of good reading ahead.

Anyway, the reason I say all of this is because Nina recently nominated my blog for the Seven Links Challenge.  The rules are as follows:
1)  Blogger is nominated to take part
2)  Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category.
3)  Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part.
4)  These bloggers publish their 7 links and nominate another 5 more bloggers
5)  And so it goes on!
6)  We’ll be sharing the best posts from participating bloggers on our blog and everyday on Facebook and Twitter at #My7Links

So here it goes:
  • My most beautiful post: faces. I love taking photos of the children here almost as much as they love having their picture taken.  It never gets old.  
  • My most popular post: screening day. According to Blogger Stats, this post has had the most individual page views.  It was a horrible day, but definitely a story that needed to be told.   
  • My most controversial post: almost made it.  I don't really think any of my posts are controversial, per se, but this one probably caused the most worry in my hoping-I-make-it-there-all-in-one-piece-with-my-luggage-too family.  
  • My most helpful post: job 22:21-30. Sometimes I just post scripture.  I love the Book of Job because it is solid stuff to chew on when you are feeling down.  Think you had a bad day?  Put on Job's shoes.
  • A post whose success surprised me: don't carry it all.  I wrote this post after a really crummy week.  I felt dragged down and tired and cranky.  When I started I was going to air my grievances with the world, but opted not to and wrote about some song lyrics instead (I tend to comment on song lyrics/scripture when I lack personal anecdotes).  A lot of people read it much to my surprise!
  • A post I feel didn't get the attention it deserved: living on a ship. I thought there was some funny stuff in this post, but no one even commented on it!  C'mon y'all!  I love getting comments!
  • The post I am most proud of: dust.  This post represents doing something you never thought in a million years you would do.  
Well there you have it!  I don't really follow that many blogs, but I love the ones that I do.  So as my nominations, I nominate Katie at toyouiliftmysoul.blogspot.com and Kari at postcardpenpal.blogspot.com. I've mentioned their blogs before and they are truly great! 

12 July 2011


Brush them.  That's all I have to say about that.

Okay, so I do have more to say about teeth, but just remember that "brush them" is the take-away point of what follows.

Since the Eye Team is without a surgeon this week, I took the opportunity to spend a day with the Dental Team.  It was a lot fun, if for nothing else because they start at 8am as opposed to my usual 7am start.  The Dental Team has their own scrubs, so after donning the light blue uniform, I accompanied my dental assistant friend, Sandra, on the short walk (in the rain!) to the Hope Center.  The Hope Center is just up the road from the port (about a 7 minute walk) and is home to both the Dental Clinic and accommodations for out-of-town patients who do not need daily nursing care but who need to be nearby for follow-up appointments.

After a short devotion, we began our day.  The Dental Team screens on Mondays and Thursdays and assigns appointments from there.  The majority of the work involves extractions of rotted/infected/damaged teeth, but they also do fillings, cleanings, and care of other oral maladies (osteomyelitis, abscesses, Ludwig's angina, etc.).  (What's Ludwig's angina, you ask? Check out Ludwig's angina.  It's basically a nasty infection, but more on this later.)

The dental clinic is a large room with four dental stations with two tables each, and one hygiene station for the hygienist.  Right now there are four dentists and each is paired with a dental assistant.

My first job was to assist the hygienist with suction on a patient who had extractions a few weeks ago and was back for a cleaning. After that, I headed over to Sandra's station and worked there for the rest of the day, assisting Joan, a dentist from Arizona.  More suction followed.  It is funny to think back to when I was a little kid and the hygienist always called the suction "Mr. Thirsty."  I'm sure the patients here call the suction "Mr. Is This Over Yet?" or something along those lines.

Assisting Joan with suction.

When a patient comes to the chair, he or she explains which tooth is hurting them and after a quick exam, the area is numbed and the extraction begins.  Many patients have only roots left behind after years of decay.  Some teeth have the pulp exposed, and others may reveal exposed bone.  Very few patients have only one tooth removed.  One of today's patients was a 19 year-old girl with severe tooth decay.  We ended up extracting all but three of her upper teeth.  Click on the photos for a closer look.

After all the teeth were extracted, Joan placed a few sutures at the former home of her molars and then offered me the opportunity to throw a suture closer to the front of her mouth.  I gladly picked up the needle-driver!  If you look closely, you can see the open sockets where her teeth used to be.  

It is funny to see the dental patients after their procedure.  If I had to have several teeth pulled, I would be less than thrilled.  But when our patients leave, they are smiling the best they can with gauze-filled mouths.  Their toothaches are gone and the chance of a life-threatening infection from rotted teeth has just been erased.

And don't get me wrong.  There are a fair share of squealers.  Like this guy, who had a large abscess on the roof of his mouth.

He moaned and squirmed as the dentists worked on him.  Part of the aftermath:

Some of the trays look like something out of a horror film by the time the dentists are finished.

Another patient I worked on, with a dentist named Mona, had the aforementioned Ludwig's angina.  She had been in the clinic yesterday with a very large abscess on her lower jaw.  According to stories, not much pus was coming out, but after a bit of poking and prodding, Mona had to literally jump back as pus shot from this woman's mouth!  Yes, gross, I know.  They inserted four drains in her jaw, which are basically pieces of rubber that are sown into place to allow the pus to drain.  So when I first saw this patient today, the first thing I noticed where the little bits of rubber poking out of her jaw/neck.  When Mona began irrigating in her mouth, the fluid would run out of the tubing and down the patient's neck!  It was a challenge to suction all the drains at once--you never knew where the blood/pus would come from!  

During our short lunch break, we ate on the terrace of the building (formerly the Seafarer's Building).  Sandra and I both had cheese toasties.

Before getting back to the teeth-pulling and the pus-suctioning, we ran over to the main side of the building to visit with patients stay here at the Hope Center.  I was happy to find my friend Tamba!  Tamba is Mr. Personality himself.  

I got to know Tamba during his stay in the ship's hospital. He spent over two months on the ward!  He is from the village of Njagbwema (which is coincidentally where the Eye Team went on our upcountry trip in April!) and when he first came to us, his feet were formed backwards.  He was in casts for several weeks that were up to his mid-thighs with knees at 90 degree angles and feet pointed straight.  After a series of surgeries and more casts, his feet are finally properly positioned!  He is staying at the Hope Center while he undergoes physical therapy and more cast changes.  When he was wheelchair-bound, he would come visit my eye room and we would color and decorate his wheelchair with balloons.  He is very funny and will talk your ear off.  Needless to say, I love this kid!

After seeing some more patients in the afternoon, we cleaned up and headed back to the ship.  On my way out, I noticed something familiar on one of the sheets used to cover up a table.

You just never know what you'll find here!

As of July 9, 2011, the Mercy Ships Dental team has extracted just shy of 18,000 teeth from around 5,500 patients here in Sierra Leone!  If you are not thinking "Whoa!" right now, well, you should be!

So boys and girls, what did we learn today?  BRUSH YOUR TEETH!

04 July 2011

i come to thee

I recently received this song on a mix CD from a friend in Oregon.  After listening to it several times, I've fallen in love with it.  Perhaps you've heard of it before.  Entitled "Jesus, I Come," I originally thought it was a modern worship song, but after looking up the lyrics, I discovered it was actually written in 1887 by a New England minister.  In 1887.  Written before any of us were born, or even thought of.  Written way before the Modern Age.  Nonetheless, the lyrics still remain true and elegant and rich.  I've posted the song and lyrics below, so take a listen and enjoy.

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,
Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy bless├Ęd will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy throne,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.


Another week has passed here on the Africa Mercy.  More surgeries.  More screenings.  More faces.

Last weekend, we welcomed Dr. Richard Newsom back to the ship.  He has worked with Mercy Ships on short-term assignments for the past few years, and this year he is with us for two weeks.  Hailing from the U.K., he is almost as fast as Dr. Glenn, which is a welcome treat.  In four days of surgery last week, we did over 60 cataract and pterygium surgeries.  He runs about 10-12 minutes per surgery, so with two O.R.'s and four beds going, it keeps us busy on the peri-operative end.

The week before Dr. Newsom arrived, we did some additional screenings in Goderich and Lumley, two fishing villages right outside of Freetown proper.  They are in the opposite direction of our screenings sites in Hastings and Waterloo, so our goal was to reach a new population.  Both sites were mildly successful, but probably produced more photographic opportunities for me than surgical candidates for the doctors.

On our way to Lumley, we drove up a very steep road that curved up along the hills overlook the city.  The road was so narrow at times it felt like we would tip over the edge and down the hill if I leaned out the window too much.  Just left of center is the National Stadium, site of our first mass screening in Freetown.

This is the view from behind the Lumley Faith Assembly of God Church.  The lodge at the very top of the hill used to be the residence of a government official, but now sits empty.  Needless to say, this area is considerably wealthier than the Kissy area where our main screening site is.

Inside the Lumley Faith Assembly of God Church.

"Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him."  Psalm 127:3

"My child, if your heart is wise, my own heart will rejoice!"  Proverbs 23:15

The Goderich Faith Assembly of God.  It is as small as it looks.  The space was a bit of challenge, but we made it work.  No matter where we screen, we always gather a crowd of curious on-lookers.

Starting with a pair of school kids on their afternoon break, my audience quickly grew into a mob of very excited children wanting me to "snap" them.  They were pushing and pulling just to get in front of the lens.

"I was thrust into your arms at my birth.  You have been my God from the moment I was born."  Psalm 22:10

"I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb.  Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations."  Jeremiah 1:5

"Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in."  Mark 10:15 [MSG]

"My child, never forget the things I have taught you.  Store my commands in your heart.  If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying."  Proverbs 3:1-2

"And what a relief to see your friendly smile.  It is like seeing the face of God!"  Genesis 33:10b

"Live footloose and fancy-free; you won't be young forever.  Youth lasts about as long as smoke."  Ecclesiastes 11:10 [MSG]

"You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you." Psalm 8:2

"No one's ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it—what God has arranged for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9 [MSG]

Friday night, the Eye Team had a mid-term dinner outing to a local restaurant called Mamba Point.  It was a welcome treat to get off the ship and have some not-mass-produced food.  Our meals began with some finger foods: delicious roast peanuts, perfect popcorn, and garlic toast.  This was followed with warm pita bread and hummus and moutabal (kind of like hummus but made with eggplant).  Then came what I actually ordered: grilled kebabs of lamb, chicken, and steak, stuffed falafels, and ground lamb in puff pastry, heaped with grilled tomatoes and onions, and covered with some more pita bread.  All very delicious.  

And to celebrate America's birthday, the ship had a good old fashioned cookout this evening.  It was held on the dock and decorated with donated balloons in red, white, and blue.  I went straight past the grilled steak to head for the hot dogs!  I've been craving a hot dog since I left home, so it was a nice treat.  

I almost forgot to report the outcome of the three-week trivia competition.  At the final game last week, my team came in a respectable second place.  The questions were considerably harder than previous weeks and included more movie and song clips, nautical terms, obscure Bible trivia, and Sierra Leone facts.  Even though we did not snag first place that night, we did snag first place in the overall competition and were rewarded handsomely with a voucher for two free large pizzas at the local Crown Bakery.  We are all looking forward to our victory outing.  

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your thoughts and prayers.