Monday, August 22, 2011

Patient Story - M'Mai Souma

M’mai covered her chin with an orange rag tied behind her head to make herself more socially presentable. The tumor that protruded from her mouth resembled a whole leg of lamb held between her teeth. The rapid growth of the tumor was alarming. In only two years it had grown so large, it was about to suffocate her.

A young Muslim wife and mother of two small sons, she had been trained as a seamstress. Her leadership skills and ability to connect with people helped her to run a successful shop where several young people were learning to sew. But she stopped working when customers shunned her because of the growth. Verbal abuse from those around her made her feel ashamed, and she withdrew into the house. However, her husband, her sons, and a couple of neighbors continued to be supportive.

She tried traditional African medicine at home, but that didn’t work. The tumor kept growing, and those around her expected her to die. Desperate to find someone to remove the growth, she sold her sewing machine to pay for a trip to see a witch doctor. She was gone for six months. Her family thought she would not return. When she did, she found her husband had taken a second wife, her room had been rented out, and she had to sleep on the couch – a rejected woman.    
Still hopeful, M’mai went to a clinic run by missionaries Jonathan and Anja Erickson in N’Zao, Guinea. Jonathan has brought many patients to Mercy Ships in the past, and he knew volunteer surgeon Dr. Tony Giles well. M’mai sent a photo of herself to Dr. Tony and went to the screening that he and his wife, Ann, were holding in the area. He referred her to the Africa Mercy for surgery.
Jonathan drove M’mai and ten other referred patients the 1200 km to the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He stayed with them for a month – providing translation, encouragement, and spiritual comfort.

The volunteer doctors removed the growth from M’mai’s mouth, and she anxiously awaited the therapy that followed. Therapist Sally Peet gave her exercises to practice several times a day. Determined to have a normal face again, M’mai did the exercises faithfully, all day. The next morning, Sally was happily surprised to see how much the swelling of M’mai’s lips had gone down. “My star patient!” she joyfully announced. “She’s so diligent and does her exercises! What an amazing transformation!” And, indeed, the transformation was amazing! Even M’mai was transfixed when she saw her “new” face in the mirror.

There were other transformations, as well. Her confidence returned, she was ready to be sociable once more, and smiles played easily across her lips. While she was recuperating, she spent some time in a Bible study and decided she would give her life to Jesus, saying she didn’t want to return to her old life.

“I would like to start up my sewing shop again,” she said. Her time on the Africa Mercy had not only restored her physical life, but had also opened up a new spiritual life, as well.

She will return to the ship in September for more surgery, if she needs it, and will then be ready for a new beginning at her tailor shop.
“I am so grateful to Mercy Ships,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “And I’m thanking God for what He has done.”
Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell and Claire Ross  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Clean Up On Isle 3

Actually, I think it was row 12.  So the only flight that our family was not all seated together was the first one from Seattle to Chicago.  Grace was at the front row in our section, Dara and Xavier were just a row in front of me about 10 rows back from Grace, and Malachi and Elijah were in the same row as Dara and Xavier but on the other side of the isle.  On that row there was another passenger sitting in the isle seat on both sides.

A few minutes into the flight an attendant stopped by my seat to let me know that, although the seat belt sign was still on as we had not yet reached cruising altitude, she allowed Grace into the lavatory as she was out of her seat and pointing at her mouth to indicate it was full of vomit.  I thanked her for her kindness and later went to check on Grace who said she was feeling better.  She actually ended up puking in an air sickness bag at landing as well but we didn't learn that until later.

The real fun came just as we began our final approach.  Malachi says (I later learn from Dara), "I think I'm gonna throw up".  I hear Dara telling Eli to get a bag for his brother, which he does not do quickly enough.  Soon I can see the results of Malachi's efforts pooling beneath his chair as the lovely aroma of fresh bile wafts through the passenger cabin.  I see the woman sitting next to him doing something, which Dara later informs me was her partially opening an air sickness bag and throwing it at Malachi.  Very kind of her, I'm sure, but all it really did was ensure that he got puke all over his hands and lap as well as he tried to expell the remainder of his stomach contents into a half opened bag.  She spent the rest of the flight (mercifully only about 10 minutes) leaning as far towards the isle as possible, looking queasy and irritated.

We waited for the plane to clear (all the while Elijah's looking like he may add to the festivities with a sympathy puke) and the flight attendants were very helpful (thank you United Airlines), giving me wet cloths and garbage sacks.  I cleaned him up the best I could and took him into the terminal to a nearby bathroom to fisnish the chore (now a thank you to O'hare airport for the awesome little utility sinks in the men's room).  Thankfully, Dara is a phenomenal packer and thought to bring a change of clothes for him.  His shoes were plastic and he wasn't wearing any socks so that was an easy clean.  The backpack was a bit of a chore (which was as his feet as he wretched).  But, by the end of it all, we had a very fresh smelling eight year old and a sack full of vomit scented clothing. 

He ended up doing the old technicolor yawn a few more times on the next flight but managed to get it all into a bag each time.  Thankfully, that seemed to be the end of it and no recurrences since. 

Who doesn't love international travel with four kids?  At least it makes for good blog material.


Well, as Grace already mentioned in the previous post, we're back onboard the Africa Mercy.  Rather than write a ton of blogs on all of the things we did this summer I though I'd just get you all caught up (ketchuped?) briefly.

As already mentioned in a previous post we had the wonderful opportunity to take a family vacation to California including trips to Disneyland and Lego Land.  On the drive back to Washington we needed to stop for lunch and did so in Livermore, CA.  Dara said as we exited, "Mary and Dave live somewhere in Livermore, I think".  Mary and Dave are relatives on Dara's mom's side that we haven't seen in years.  We called Dara's mom to get their phone number and gave them a call from the Jack in the Box we were eating lunch at.  Their house was four blocks away!  God was so good to arrange this 'coincidence'.  We spent a wonderful afternoon and evening reconnecting before heading back on the road.

For the remainder of the summer we spent time with family and friends, spoke at several churches (thank you to Cross View Church, Life Point Church [both Lake Stevens and Everett sites], and Central Christian Church), ate tons of great food, and had several fun day outings.

The final week we spent at Warm Beach Camp, to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for their generosity, hospitality, and kindness.  We were there for their annual Family Camp, which includes morning and evening bible/preaching/informational sesssion for both kids and adults as well as a host of incredible activities to be enojoyed in the afternoons (and sometimes late night).  There were several missionaries there and we were honored to be given opportunities to share about Mercy Ships and our involvement in it during the week.  We were inspired, refreshed, and made some great new friends (most especially Mike and Trace Graham).

All in all, eight weeks of God's grace and mercy shown directly and through the lives of those around us.  Thank you, Lord.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back Home on the Africa Mercy

After our fun and hectic summer we have returned to Africa. We have had a safe and mostly uneventful journey. The only problem was that two of us were sick on the plane, but both feel better now that we are on the ship. We are very glad to be back in our own beds and are excited to see our friends here on the ship again, but we will miss our family and friends in the States. We want to thank Grandma Velda and the Rottinghouses for giving us places to stay and the Dubuque's for entertaining our kids. We also want to thank everyone who made our summer wonderful with your service, friendship, and prayers. See you in another 3 years! - Grace