Vibrant purple African-patterned fabric showcased a youthful face. Her wide, deep browns eyes lit a smooth sea of creamy skin. Long beaded earrings hung delicately above her shoulders. Joy radiated from her shy smile. She looked like a princess. Her beautiful face and sweet spirit forced tears to migrate towards the corner of every eye in the room.
It was the best of times.
Three VVF patients went home today. Their catheters came out. Their sheets were dry. So we celebrated.
At 10 AM I attended my first dress ceremony. Dress ceremonies are a Mercy Ships tradition. When a VVF patient is ready to go home they are given a new dress as a symbol of their new life. Crew from throughout the ship attended. The drums came out. We sang to the rhythmic African beats.
And the three women danced.
They danced in joy. They danced in freedom. They danced in hope. And for the first time in many years they danced without leaking. Restoration had occurred.
Each woman was given the opportunity to sing their own song. To dance their own dance. They testified of what God had done for them. They shared their story of life before they came to Mercy ships. Rejection. Embarrassment. Pain. Suffering. Endurance.
But these words have been replaced.
Today they spoke of Joy. Thanksgiving. Hope. Friendship. Love.
Everyone in the room was proud of and we excited for them. It was indescribably joyful.
When the ceremony was over, we all went back to the business of nursing. My patient in bed seven was coming back from surgery. Her baby face looked about fourteen but in reality she was 20. Her smile always stretched from ear to ear. She been in the ward for almost two weeks waiting to have her surgery.
Today was her day.
The PACU nurse brought her stretcher into the ward and we prepared to move her onto her bed. Before doing so I inquired about the Foley catheter’s whereabouts.
“She doesn’t have one. Her fistula was inoperable.”
It was the worst of times.
For two weeks she waited on the ward to have surgery. She had taken a plane from up country to reach the ship. Today was a dream she had hoped an prayed about for many years. But the dream was over.
I could not tell if her solemn affect was sleepiness from anesthesia or sadness from the bad news. I tried to believe it was the anesthesia. What can you possibly say to someone in that circumstance? It was the same feeling I felt in the PICU when Neurosurgeons tell the parents their child has an inoperable brain tumor and will probably die sometime this month.
I grabbed her hand as she drifted to sleep. I asked Clenentine, the ward chaplain, if she could speak with her later. The nurses prayed for her at the end of our shift.
It is an incredible emotional dichotomy to experience in only an hours time.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.