I am in the middle of a 12 hour night shift. The patients are sleeping and pain free. Praise God.
Here is a list of small small ways my shift has reminded me I am on a hospital ship in Africa
1. Their are two bathrooms in Hope and Faith ward, which are shared by the patients, and not always functioning. We keep signs by each bathroom door that say "do not use" and "toilet not flushing". The hospital keeps our plumbers plenty plenty busy.
Tonight when I was getting report I heard number 6 (there is not "number" sign on my keyboard, this £ is there instead) of the top ten things a ward nurse on the Africa Mercy does not want to hear
"Are the toilets working now?"
Thankfully they were.
2. Everyday we take the patients up to deck 7 (outside) to get some fresh air. Their are no windows on the 3rd deck where the hospital is located and it can be mildly depressing. A somewhat reliable elevator is used to transfer the patients from deck 3 to deck 7.
James, a cute 1 year old boy (I have met so many cute little Liberian boys with that name) went outside today. His mom also went with him.
When I came to assess James tonight his mom, with hand motions and all, she told me about the elevator ride she took today.
"It was the first since I was born."
It's not everyday that you hear about a grown woman's first elevator ride. She told me she was scared to take "the lift". I told her that I had ridden in plenty plenty lifts, and that lift scared me too.
3. Tonight, before the patients went to bed, we sang a few African songs. It was convenient that Jam bay drums and a gourd shaker were located in the corner of Hope ward. I played the drums, Musu played the gourd. Good times.
4. After I turned our the lights, some of the patients did not want to go to sleep. One was a 32 year old woman. I did not think I could really tell a grown woman to go to bed. And then I saw why she didn't want to sleep. She was busy coloring in her Mercy Ships coloring book. She totally stayed inside the lines.
5. AN ICU patients was trying to pull out his ETT tube. I suggested soft wrist restraints. Great idea except that we don't have them.
But we did have two kotex pads, four tourniquets, tape, and coban dressing. And a little creativity.
We made our own restraints. The patient can no longer reach his airway.
6. A ten year old boy had a biopsy of a tumor that is occupying the 25 % of is face. I had to wake him up at 1 am to rinse his mouth with chlorohexidine.
I felt terrible waking him. And I felt sad that he even had to be here in the first place. Sad that he had a large, disfiguring mass on his face.
As her drank the mouth wash, swished it around, and spit it our, I almost started crying. It's just wrong that kids suffer. It makes you realize how fallen the world is.
I use to have these moments with regularity when I worked in the PICU at home. I hated seeing kids be uncomfortable. They are suppose to be playing and carefree.
I felt the joy and the pain of the moment.
The pain that this boy has a tumor. The pain that he couldn't just sleep thought the night. The pain that he will require more medical intervention that will mean more pokes and prodding.
The pain that we live in a world where children suffer.
But I felt so privileged to be the one waking him up. That I got to tuck him in when he was done. That I got to rub his forehead as he fell asleep. Those are the moments that made me become a nurse. It's a joy to be able to care for people.
Sick kids will always have a place in my heart. Two years in the PICU granted them permanent residence.
I hope as long as I am a nurse that the suffering of my patients always effects my emotions. That I would experience empathy. And that I would realize the privilege that caring of someone is.