January 4, 2016

Mercy Ships: Their Stories

international travel nursing on medical mission

Every morning when I go to work there’s one patient that gives me a giant smile and says, “Good morning, Hannah,” with the most proper English pronunciation. English was so foreign to her and nearly all of our patients in the beginning, as they only speak Malagasy when they come to the clinic. This particular patient was interested in learning English from day one, and she has learned and remembered so many words. I think it makes her happy to be able to address us. You can tell she is very proud. The nurses joke and say she’s fluent in English now. It fills my heart with warmth and joy when she greets me each morning. I absolutely love it!

On a different note, one of our older obstetric fistula patients found out during surgery screening that she is a type 1 diabetic. Subsequently, her blood sugars were out of control, so they started her on insulin, a medicine to control blood sugar. While recovering from surgery, the clinic staff attempted to come up with a plan of how to manage her diabetes when discharged. Due to the high cost of insulin, we staff knew that if we sent her home taking the medication she wouldn’t be able to afford food. The scarce availability of insulin poses a large problem as well. As we continued to debate her care plan, we addressed the issue of how to store the insulin. It needs to be refrigerated, and our patients do not have access to refrigerators. As a result, we would have to teach her to dig a hole deep into the ground and store her insulin there. That way it stays cold and hopefully, no one will steal it. She is still currently a patient, and her care plan has yet to be decided.

I can’t even begin to imagine living as my patients do. We all live in the same world, but it’s so, so different.

I am very much looking forward to this Friday’s dress ceremony. Since I have been here a few weeks now, I have been able to develop relationships with some of these particular patients. I will be very sad when they leave.

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.