January 7, 2015

Mercy Ships: Gifts from the Hope Center

international travel nursing on medical mission

I started my New Year’s Day walking to the Hope Center with two other nurses/friends. The Hope Center is where patients who live far away from Tamatave (where the ship is docked) go for treatment. Think Ronald McDonald House – a facility for patients and caregivers. There were a few special former patients I wanted to see and this visit was the perfect way for me to begin 2015!

Our visit to the Hope Center had a few unexpected gifts. A few weeks ago I was teaching a group of men and women who will be working as the day crew at the Hope Center. When I saw them they shouted my name and rushed over to hug and kiss me. The second gift happened when we were able to have our photos taken with former patients. I can’t post them here because they were taken with a “Mercy Ship camera” and have to be approved, but once that happens you bet you’ll be seeing them! The third gift came when I got to see two of my favorite past patients. One man is 34 years old and I was his PACU and ward nurse. I affectionately call him “Trouble” and he knows it. He now refers to himself as “Trouble” when I am around.

The other patient is a teenager who is 15 years old. I was his primary nurse on the ward and he and I just “got” each other. He wouldn’t eat for the other nurses, but he ate half of his food when I asked him to. I guess since I’m known on the ship as “Momma Lee,” my patients know I mean business! His mother is one of the women I was with when I shared my “sisters” photo earlier. When we were leaving, the day crew asked when I was coming back and my “gotta eat” boy asked if I was coming back tomorrow.

For me, all of these “gifts” just reinforce why I’m here. Having past students – now off-site co-workers – remember me, patients and their families wanting photos taken with me, and seeing a 15-year-old boy with a smile that can light up a room when he sees the nurse who “made him eat” mashed up food – THIS is why God placed me where he has at this time. Happy New Year to all!!

Lee 🙂

In May 2014, Travel Nurse Across America (TNAA) announced a partnership with Mercy Ships, as part of its ongoing philanthropic activities. TNAA sponsored four nurses to volunteer on a healthcare delivery mission in Africa. Mercy Ships, a global charity organization, uses ships – floating hospitals – to provide free surgery and dental care in impoverished countries. Mercy Ships has been in operation since 1978. The nurses sponsored by TNAA worked for eight weeks each on the African mercy ship docked in Cotonou, Benin. Follow the TNAA blog for Mercy Ships updates.