December 28, 2015

Mercy Ships: The Dress Ceremony

international travel nursing on medical mission

Every other Friday we celebrate the dress ceremony at the women’s clinic. Once each woman is recovered from fistula surgery and is ready to go home, she gets her makeup done and a new dress, hat, and jewelry. Then they each get to stand up and give a testimony of their experience pre-and post-surgery. It is both a happy and sad experience for the women and those attending the ceremony. Some of them are completely healed from the surgery, but for others the surgery was unsuccessful and they will return to their villages continuing to suffer the physical and mental effects of their condition.

During their testimonies, most of the women stand up and tell the story of how long they’ve had their fistulas, and how their husbands have since then left them. It is unimaginable to think that many of these women have lived with their condition for 2, 7, or even 15 years. The women then proceed, in the cutest way, to thank the doctors, nurses, drivers, and cooks for everything they’ve done.

When I first arrived, we had one patient whose husband had left her, which is basically the norm for women with fistulas. She ended up meeting another man while she had her fistula, getting remarried, and having subsequent children with him. She spent her time in the clinic with her husband and youngest child by her side. It was so heart-warming to see this couple and gave hope that there are still good Malagasy men out there following their hearts instead of the ways of Malagasy society.

I look forward to experiencing two more dress ceremonies before my time is up in Madagascar.

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.