Settling in Senegal

A Little Odyssey,

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This post by A Little Odyssey was originally published at A Little Odyssey

We can hardly believe that we have been in Senegal since August and are more than halfway through the field service!  This blog was started a few months back as we approached our first anniversary on the ship (we have now just completed fifteen months!) – but was never finished!  Our apologies and we hope that some of you may have caught up a little with our Instagram or Facebook posts.

Restocking the Omnicell
Ready to go – one side of one of the wards

A bit of a recap!  We arrived in Dakar, Senegal in the middle of August and the first three weeks were spent getting everything ready for the opening of the hospital on 9th September with surgeries starting the following day.  Stuart spent a couple of those weeks down in the OR (Operating Room – or Operating Theatre to the British!) in and out of the five ORs doing all sorts of jobs and repairing things that couldn’t be done once the hospital opened to ensure they were ready.  Lynne helped the nurses wash, clean, disinfect, remove numerous straps, unpack and set up the hospital.  What a job – but a privilege to see how it all comes together.

One of the ORs set up
Open Evening – Intubating
Open Evening -checking Noah’s vitals

A week before the hospital opened crew were invited to the Hospital Open Evening which is an opportunity to visit areas of the hospital that are normally out of bounds and have a go at some ‘medical procedures.’ OR staff, Anaesthetists, Sterilising Technicians, Lab Technicians, Bio-medical Technician, Ponsetti Team, X-Ray Team and nurses nursing and ‘playing patient’ showed us around their work patch, demonstrated equipment and procedure for a couple of hours.  We took six year old Noah round with us as mum and dad were either involved in one of the stations or looking after younger brother Judah.  He had a great time and kept us moving quickly from room to room!  Before the hospital opened it needed another clean and disinfect – but at least the unpacking was done!!

Monday 9th September saw the first patients arriving and being admitted to the wards and at around 8.00 am on Tuesday 10th September, the whole ship stopped as the tannoy sounded and our Chief Medical Officer prayed – for the field service and the first operation which was about to commence.

“Saliou was the very first patient in Senegal to receive the free surgery that could change his future! After the operation that repaired his cleft lip (a Maxillo Facial surgery), he’s on the mend, and his future is already looking a bit brighter!”
 
(Picture and quote from Mercy Ships Communications Department
 


The start of the field service saw Maxillo Facial surgeries, General surgeries (hernias, lipomas) and the first block of Plastic surgeries: many burn contracture patients of varying ages who stay with us for many months, initially in the hospital and then many at the Hope Centre (our off ship ‘hotel’ ward type facility) because they live too far away to come back for their regular Outpatient and Rehab (Physio) appointments.  Although there are new patients coming in daily Monday to Friday, some staying just two nights, with others staying much longer, each patient is shown such individual love, care and compassion by all the crew (those living on the ship and the Day Crew) they come into contact with.

We have about 250 Day Crew, many of whom are our translators for the patients, and without whom we just could not do what we do.  The Senegalese Day Crew are just wonderful, keen to teach us Wolof (the main language in Senegal) and many are incredibly tall!  We have 12 Day Crew who work with Hospital Chaplaincy and every morning they go to each of the wards and sing, share some scripture and pray with the patients and ward team.  It is loud, joyful and moving.  During the rest of the day the Hospital Chaplaincy team are on the wards, in the tents outside or at the Hope Centre spending time with the patients, talking, playing games, cuddling the younger patients (never a shortage of willing arms to cuddle the babies and toddlers!) praying if they would like, couselling patients and caregivers and supporting the caregivers as their loved one goes off to surgery.

Seny – one of our Maxillo Facial patients
Seny – on the day of her final discharge

Seny was studying Economics at the University of Dakar,  With goals to graduate and have a career in Finance, the future looked bright for this highly intelligent young woman. Then suddenly a small bump appeared on the inside of Seny’s lips.  It slowly grew larger and eventually Seny had to give up her dream.  Surgery on the Africa Mercy will give her the opportunity to return to school and accomplish all that she’s been hoping for.  After her surgery, Seny looked at her reflection – her face free from the tumour.  It was then she realised her dreams were possible again.  On the day of her final discharge, Seny glowed from the newfound hope in her eyes.  This 25 year old woman left the Africa Mercy with plans to return to school, get a degree and find a job in her hometown of Dakar.  Seny wants to use her intelligence and education to better her country.   (Used with permission of Mercy Ships)

Plastic block one finished and eight weeks of Orthopaedic surgeries started in November, along with continuing Maxillo Facial and General Surgeries.  The hospital corridors were filled with children in brightly coloured casts practicing walking with frames (called hoppers), including many made with plastic pipes and plumbing fittings that Stuart and Mike (the other carpenter) had made because the hospital ran out! (A previous crew member had designed them a few years ago and the instructions are still good!)

Djimby – one of our Ortho patients

Djimby is a strong-willed little girl. It’s no surprise. This six-year-old takes after her grandmother, Ndeye, who’s spent the last two years tirelessly searching for healing for Djimby’s windswept legs. Neighbors and family members, including Djimby’s own mother, criticized her, calling her efforts useless and hopeless, but Ndeye pressed on. “As long as I am living, I will look for a solution,” she affirmed. 

God answered her prayers when He sent a hospital ship to the port of Dakar. Two years of hardships in the face of adversity was wiped away, replaced with the hope of healing for Djimby. 

(Used with permission of Mercy Ships)

Aliou – one of our new Plastics patients
(Used with permission of Mercy Ships)

We have just finished two weeks a paediatric eye surgery – what an amazing gift for a child who has either never seen or has limited vision and also two weeks of Cranio Facial surgery where we welcomed back a Paediatric Surgeon and Nurse from a hospital in Oxford.  What hope for the youngest of patients.

Adult eye surgery also started after Christmas and continues for some months and the second block of plastics has begun again. The hospital is a busy, often loud and sometimes chaotic place with many people trying to pass each other in the narrow corridors! But good!

Visiting BCS School

We have been exploring Senegal – and a little further afield too.  In October we visited Bourafaye Christian School, part of WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ) in Popenguine about an hour
away; our church at home has a connection with them and hosts some of their training before they come to Senegal.  It was great to be shown around and to meet new and old friends.  Some have also visited the ship since.

African Forest Buffalo
Two of the many giraffes at Bandia

In November we visited Bandia Wildlife Reserve.  What a treat to travel out of the port and away from the city of Dakar and see native flora and fauna and breathe in different air.

Stuart on the zip wire
Matthew on the high ropes

After a great morning there we went to Accrobaobab – ‘thrill seeking among the baobab trees’ – and some adventurous souls went zip wiring thorough the trees.  Stuart and Matthew opted in to the adventure, Lynne opted to take the photos!

The ‘Door of No Return’

We also visited Goree Island, a short 20 minute ferry ride from our port.  This was an island where West African people were taken before being deported to so called civilised nations as slaves.  The ‘Door of No Return’ is synonomous with Senegal Slave Trade and is on Goree.

Making music at the Bazaar

December saw many Christmas activities on the ship, experiencing traditions from crew nationalities – the Christmas Bazaar, Dutch Sinterklaas, Scandanavian Festival of Light (always on our Wedding Anniversary on the 12th!) Australian Carols by Candlelight on the dock (really! Thought it was a British tradition), British Crew Christmas Party, all the while travelling through the Advent Season culminating in celebrating our Saviour’s birth.

Brit Christmas Party
27th Wedding Anniversary
The restaurant at Evergreen Lodge
The round huts we stayed in


The three of us opted to take a longer break over the Christmas and New Year period where there are no planned surgeries and went to a fabulous eco-retreat in The Gambia.  It was beautiful and we loved it.  The Gambia is very small, English speaking and home to many beautiful birds.

Juffure
Kunte Kinteh Island

We visited the Roots village of Juffure and Kunte Kinteh island.  Another legacy of the slave trade.

One of the Wassu Stone Circles
Dinner by the river

We also visited the Wassu stone circles in the interior of The Gambia.  Then on to lunch by the river before a trip on The Gambia River which has a number of protected islands (which visitors are not allowed to go on) to house chimpanzees.

One of the chimpanzees


The eco-lodge where we stayed had just built a bird hide on their grounds.  Having spent a morning with a bird watching guide, we enjoyed spending time at their bird hide trying to spot some of the birds we had been told about. Unfortunately, camera phones don’t take good photos of birds so we took photos of us instead!

One of our highlights of this field service was the visit of our girls, Hannah and Zoe and Hannah’s boyfriend, Nick, in the middle of January.  It was a joy to see them again, to show them around the Africa Mercy, our current home and spend a bit of time with them.

Zoe stayed on the ship and spent some time with Stuart in his workshop making the hoppers and then with Lynne in the hospital, while Hannah and Nick did some surfing up the coast.  All too soon we had to say goodbye again!

Won’t go far like this
Lompoul Desert
Maybe this would be quicker!
Just waiting!

We had a very eventful family trip to Lompoul desert where our taxi broke down at some point every part of the journey culminating with the wheel flying off down the road!    We came to a halt in a little village in the middle of nowhere.  We kept our eye out for ways home!  It took a while to find an alternative taxi back to the ship and involved several lifts and taxis but we won’t forget our trip!

On Ngor Island

It is now February and we had a lovely day with some friends from the ship at Ngor Island last weekend (a short pirogue ride across from Ngor town,Lynne’s birthday on Thursday took us out for ice cream with other friends. Today, Saturday we have taken a crew member back to the airport for her flight home to Australia and tonight we are out for a curry, back to Ngor, with some other friends.

It was used the next day!

Life aboard is truly unique and we feel this is our season to be here.  In the main, we have stayed well, although we have all succumbed to a bout of GI illness (Lynne had Salmonella!) and the odd cold.  Stuart became one of the many crew to become a member of the ‘living blood bank’ on board, donating blood on one day which was used during a surgery the following day. (We have limited space to store blood.)  Lynne’s knee continues to work well, if aching occasionally.  We are praying that we will steer clear on Influenza Type A which a number of crew currently have.

We are rejoicing for the seven containers that arrived over Thursday and Friday meaning surgeries can continue (it was pretty tight!); Deck, Engineering, Medical Supply and General Supply can have replenished stock (some supplies were zero!); and the galley has more food (they cook for about 450 for breakfast and dinner and 650 for lunch).

 
 
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.’  Lamentations 3:22
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