Friday, 3 June 2016


I am breaking silently
Into just a fraction of the person that I am,
That I was
That I expect myself to be.
Or perhaps the truth is
That I have always been broken
But today I am shattered.
I cannot say another goodbye.
I cannot sit here and pretend it is all okay
Pretend that I am whole and untouched by this season of departure.
For just a moment, or a day, or maybe even a lifetime
I need to pause this life
And hold on to what is in front of me
Because I'm just not ready
To carve new holes in my heart
While the old ones are still bleeding.

We are packing up for sail, and in the process there are hundreds of people leaving, many never to return.  It is a season on the ship that we weather every year, but that doesn't make it any easier.
Hopefully I'll have some patient stories written up for you soon, but this was a glimpse into where I am at today.

Sunday, 13 December 2015


Sometimes I don't know why I am drawn to the underdogs.  To the people with the biggest struggles and deepest hurts.  The ones who wear their scars on their sleeves and admit to all that they have been through and overcome.  There is a strength inherent in the ability to be honest about the things that broke you.  That continue to break you.
In my job as a nurse, every day brings me face to face with the people who wear their scars on the outside.  They come into the outpatients tent and bare their wounds and their scars, and trust us with their stories.
-  The small girl who we wrap up every other day in bandages, who comes skipping and smiling into our tent, giggling at things her mother says, giving us high fives and curling up in a nurse's lap when she's tired.  At every dressing we hear her cry, and every time we say goodbye she thanks us for all we do.  We are trying to teach her to trust again.  I think we're getting there.
- The young woman waiting on a diagnosis, who comes in full of hope and dignity.  Dressed as though she is showing up to work, impeccable other than a tumour that mars her physique.  We dress her wounds and pray and hope alongside her.
- The old man with a face that droops and sags on one side like a stroke victim with a little too much skin.  Tales to tell of an overwhelming tumour that threatened his life and is now gone.
- The small boy who runs around the tent like the ball of a pinball machine, half his face swollen and misshapen, he is oblivious to any deformity, and in love with everyone around him.  He hangs off of the nurses and the day crew, riffles through drawers looking for toys, and giggles at the least provocation.
- The middle-aged woman who has a freshly-drawn scar at the base of her neck, asking if her goitre will grow back.  Smiling and happy to have her blood drawn to make sure her thyroid levels are okay.
- The young man who stretches out his burn-scarred arm to show where the scar has been stretched too far and is now a wound.  Bashfully grinning and admitting to games of basketball that may have been a little more than his arm could handle.
- The family member who sold a cow or a field so that they could pay for the transportation to get their son/daughter to the ship, even when everyone else told them not to.  And now they look with pride on the changes, the healing that has taken place since they were brave and came anyways.
Every day we see 30 or more patients come through our doors.  Every story is different, and yet they are all so similar.  They involve pain, strength, courage, hope.  They involve journeys across country, and overcoming barriers.  They include naysayers who told them no one would help them, it's all a lie, you're too broken.  
We do our best for them.  But our best isn't always good enough.  Some of the wounds are slow to heal.  Some of the tumours are the wrong kind and we just can't do surgery on them.  Some of the babies are too small or the patient is too sick for surgery.    And all too often these are the patients that steal my heart and leave it scarred.  We see some of the more broken ones very frequently, trying to make them ready, strong enough for surgery.   Waiting for a yes or no for surgery after a biopsy.   Trying to heal wounds after surgery.  And in the waiting, or the prolonged healing, we grow attached.  We pray and we hope... and sometimes we end up crying with the patients.  
There have been a couple of "no's" this week that were rather difficult.  Pray with me for these people and their families.  That this time with them would be the seed planted for love, hope, a God that loves no matter the circumstance.  Pray for miracles.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Whale of a tail to tell you!

It all started simply enough.  With a hospital ship that went in for repairs in a South African port.  This ship was no stranger to dry docks and repairs, having started her life as a rail ferry, she was completely refitted a number of years ago in England to become a hospital ship.  And then every couple of years she goes back to dry dock for all the bits and pieces of maintenance that can't be done in the water.  
This year was the year to fix the propellor that wasn't working quite right.  And so into her special tub went the ship, where they drained the water out and removed one propellor, and then the rudder, and finally even the propellor shaft.  Full of surprises and difficult fixes, all the parts were worked on by talented men and women, until finally everything came back together.  It was slow work and in the meantime the ship was refilling with men and women who wanted to work in her hospital, but the hospital wasn't open yet.  So those men and women found other jobs onboard to keep things running smoothly.
After many more days than planned, it was finally time to fill the tub around the ship with water and sail away.
The people onboard cheered as they began their sail to Madagascar.  As they began to sail, they noticed something in the water... the humpback whales were flipping their tails in excitement!

All day long, the whales kept jumping and slapping the water with their tails, as though they wanted to put on a show for the hospital ship! 

Even after the sun set, the whales kept jumping and enjoying the water!

 The next day the ship's crew woke to more excitement, and whales that came by, swimming and jumping.

  And the next day the whales were waving their fins and slapping the water.  The show just wasn't stopping!

Until finally the whales decided to wave one final time, and the ship sailed on full of excited crew who couldn't wait to start work in Madagascar!
After many days on the water, the ship sailed up close to the port of Tamatave where the people were eagerly awaiting her arrival!
 Day crew had a party on the beach and excitedly waved her in!

The port stood open and waiting, while the ship turned around and backed into her spot, the same cosy port as she occupied last year. 

And with crew on the decks watching out, and crew in the port waving her in, the ship finally arrived and was tied to the dock in her home for the next 10months.  Tamatave, Madagascar.

Now the crew of the hospital ship have one short week to prepare get things cleaned, setup and ready to go.  They have patients to screen and evaluate, appointments to make, new crew to train.  

We could use your prayers.  It's going to be a very full week, with no weekend break if we want to be ready to go in time.  Pray for good communication all around.  Pray for wisdom as decisions are made that will impact the rest of the year.  Pray for strength and energy to do all that must be done.  Pray for safety for all involved (and healing for our plastic surgeon who was recently injured and needs some time to heal before coming to the ship).  Pray that we would remember to put God first everyday, no matter the circumstance.