We are in the midst of our busy plastics/maxio-facial surgical schedule. Which means we (by we I mean the surgeons) are performing a large number of burn contracture releases and cleft palate/lip repairs. Which means over 50% of our patient population is currently children. Which means when we put on a Disney movie the ward sort of feels like a giant kids party.
Which means I am happy.
Three out of my five patients were less than a year old. It was a very cute assignment.
There was Margret who had a cleft lip/palate repair. She had the biggest, squeeziest, thunder thighs that begged to be tugged. I spent a good part of my night trying to make her laugh (with great success I might add). I would stand in front of her and start singing and dancing any ridiculous tune that came to my mind. She would accordingly start bouncing her little body and giggling. Her giggles were almost drowned by all the caregivers in the ward that were laughing at me but looking silly is a small price to pay to hear the laughter of a child.
Faith was another cleft lip repair. She is a 5 months old. When she was born, her birth mother abandoned her. To my understanding it is somewhat common for cleft palate/lip babies to be abandoned or out casted in their communities.
But a loving woman, who is now her mother, decided to adopt Faith. It was really humbling to see that kind of sacrificial love. This Liberian woman already living in poverty with two children but she decided to share the little she had by adopting Faith. She and her husband are special people. Without them, Faith would probably be dead.
I really love the cleft and maxio-facial surgeries. It's amazing to see such an immediate transformation. In only a few hours time, patients lives are drastically and dramatically changed. It's a beautiful and amazing process.
The Africa Mercy will be leaving Liberia in only two months. I will be flying home from the Canary islands (where the ship is headed to dry dock) to spend Christmas in Philadelphia with my family. As much as I cannot wait to see my family, eat salad, meander through the GAP, drive a car, walk through the park, take a ten minute shower, and drink gingerbread lattes out of the holiday red cups (red cups = euphoria), a part of me will be very sad to leave Liberia.
I feel as if I am just starting to understand a very small part of the culture and we are leaving.
As much as I have my moments of "Oh my gosh, what am I doing on a hospital ship in West Africa?" every so often, the privilege of serving, loving, caring for, and sharing the gospel with the poor is completely overwhelming. It's such a beautiful way to live.
Regardless of what the future may hold I know my perspective on life and it's substance has been forever changed.
Life is a vapor. As soon as we think it's firm in our grasp we open our hands and find only empty space. Our hearts still aches for some measure of truth.
Proverbs 8: 17-21
I love them that love Me: and those that seek Me early shall find me. Riches and honor are with Me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold; and My revenue than choice silver. I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgement; that I may cause those that love Me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.