March 14, 2016

Mercy Ships: Pieces of My Heart

international travel nursing on medical mission

My last week on the ship flew by and was so much harder than I imagined it would be. I loved every minute of my time in Madagascar, and I know that I left a piece of my heart on the Africa Mercy. Mercy Ships felt like home from day one, and I was never homesick – which is very unusual for me, despite all the travel assignments I have done.

During my last few days on the ship, I went to the ward every day to spend extra time with the patients. One of my favorites was a little girl named Sasilene, or “Sassy Sasilene,” as I called her. Little Miss Sassy came to Mercy Ships for a burn contracture release. The first few nights after her surgery were rough for her, and she would start to cry if she even saw my flashlight at night.

After finishing my night shifts and having a few days off work, I returned to see Sassy running around the unit as if she was a totally different child. Almost every shift from that day on, she was my partner in crime. I spent the majority of my downtime on the ward playing Jenga, running up and down the halls, or just sitting with Sas in my lap.

On my second to last day, I went down to the ward to tell Sasilene and her mother that I would be leaving in a few days to go home. It was bittersweet hearing her mother say that little Sas was going to miss me. A little while later, I was sitting with Sas in my lap when she pulled off one of her bracelets, put it on my wrist, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. My heart melted. She definitely took a piece of my heart at that moment.

I’ve been home now for a little more than a week, and every day I think about Madagascar and all the wonderful people I met. When I talk to family and friends about my experience with Mercy Ships, I can’t help but smile. I cannot thank TNAA enough for allowing me to be a part of something so amazing and truly an experience of a lifetime.

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.