Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thank You!

Check out this video that was made to thank you for your contirbution to Mercy Ships.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Unexpected Fun

Yesterday 45 of the crew participated in AMAZING RACE Conakry. I was stationed at the HOPE Center (Hospital Out-Patient Extention) where the teams would build a fire big enough to burn through a piece of string. It was pretty exciting to be part of AMAZING RACE, but hanging out at the HOPE Center was even more fun. I got there around 8:00 in the morning and since I didn't leave till about 3:30 I got to spend some time with the patients that are staying there. Here's a few pictures of the kids. Mafugi is in the top two, he's in therapy to follow up from his club-foot surgery. In the bottom picture you'll see Yaya from  my previous post. He's getting around pretty well. Sory, also in the  bottom picture is recovering from removal of a very large facial tumor. Soon he'll be having a follow up surgery.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Half Time Show

We're officially half way through the field service in Guinea. Here are some statistics from the hospital to show you what we've been doing.

Mercy Vision
  • Cataract Surgeries 743
  • Pterygium Surgeries 45
  • Eye Evaluations 11,496
  • Distribution of Glasses 1,242
  • UV, reading, or prescription glasses
  • Routine Eye Exams 508
Outlook of Hope
Reconstructing Hope
  • Plastic Reconstructive Surgeries 18
  • VVF/RVF  40
Specialized Surgical Solutions
  • General Surgeries  127
  • Orthopedic Surgeries 116
  • Ponseti Clubfoot Corrections 51
Palliative Care
  • Provide Home-care for Terminally Ill 22
Guinea Smiles
  • Dental Care - tooth decay infection removal 50,546
  • Clinical Dental Hygiene Services 418
Hospital Chaplaincy
  • One on One Counseling Sessions 2,061
  • Bibles Distributed 88
  • One on One HIV Counseling Sessions 315
Mercy Ministries
  • Partner Ministry Site Visits 148
  • Crew Participation Opportunities 1,209

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


A Belgian photographer, Stephan Vanfleteren, was on the ship in September. Here a a few pages from an article that was released. You probably can't read the text, but the photos are really good.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One Unit of Help

I've known many people on the ship that have been able to give blood to a patient..... I'm not much on needles so when I was on the ship last year I never thought twice about giving blood. This year I went to the hospital open house and found out that I have Type B blood and then told the lab that I would give if it was critically needed. It almost happened in December but they were able to get what they needed. Yesterday morning they reminded the crew that if we could give blood to register with the because this lady, Mama Hassanatouwas going to have her tumor removed.

Around lunch time I saw that a couple people had given blood so I thought that I might be hearing from the hospital. Then at about 2 o'clock they came and got me saying that they needed some blood. So I went down and gave. I was a little nervous. After a few bad needle sticks from getting blood tests at home put me off to needles, but today wasn't a problem. They stuck me and about 10 minutes later my unit of blood was gone. It was checked with the lab and then sent into the Operating Room. After work I heard that 7 units of blood had been given today. Please keep Mama in your prayers as she recovers from her life changing surgery. Below is a picture of a good friend Sarah that also was able to help with her blood donation today.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Grandmother's Love

Rather than joyous celebration, the reaction to Yaya’s birth was broken family ties. Yaya’s mother, Salematou, and his father, Abdulaye, were not married when their son was born. The tradition that Salematou’s father lived by did not make room for a child born out of wedlock. Despite Salematou’s pleading with her father to allow her to keep her child, his decision was final. As soon as Yaya could leave his mother’s breast, he was sent to live with Kadiatou, his grandmother on his father’s side.
Living with his grandmother turned out to be a wonderful blessing for Yaya. Kadiatou personifies the bottomless heart and limitless space that African grandmothers offer their children and their children’s children. She assumes whatever responsibility comes her way, no matter the burden. Kadiatou explains, “There are many mouths that I feed in my family. In addition to Yaya, five of my children and their nine children need my support too. Everyone shares in the work of the household, but earning income in Conakry is very difficult. My husband now, Mamadouba, is very old. He gives what money he can, but he has family to support too.”
Yaya stole his grandmother’s heart from day one. His ready smile and eagerness to be close to her formed a thick bond. When tragedy struck Yaya, Kadiatou was distraught. “Yaya started walking when he was one year old, but after taking a few steps he would fall. We tried many traditional medicines, but his condition grew worse. At eighteen months, his legs started to twist and curl up. They failed him entirely.”
Yaya’s uncle, also named Yaya, remembers this as a time of many trials for his mother.  “Kadiatou was so afraid for Yaya. He often had a high fever, and his legs would cramp up terribly. He would cry for hours from the pain. Kadiatou tried everything to soothe him. She held him for hours. Then my father and sister died very close together. My mother’s heart was broken into so many pieces.”
Kadiatou, who had taken in her daughter’s five children, decided that moving the family to Conakry, the capital of Guinea, was best for Yaya. “I hoped that the medical care Yaya needed was in a big city. As well, I knew that Conakry had schools for handicapped children that Yaya could attend.” Another important reason for the move was that Kadiatou was protecting Yaya from the villagers who thought that children with disabilities were cursed. She would not stand for her grandson being tormented, ridiculed, or forced into hiding.
When Yaya reached five years of age, he started attending the school for handicapped children. “I was so happy for Yaya. He started to learn his letters and bring home things he made,” Kadiatou says. Although there were no school fees and transportation was provided, Kadiatou still had expenses to cover, like school supplies. She made ends meet by going to the Grand Mosque daily and helping with cleaning and cooking. After a full year of being a volunteer, she was finally included in the group that received a weekly stipend, plus donations of money and food from appreciative people attending the Mosque.
Yaya often joined Kadiatou at the Mosque after school, and he soon became a favorite with everyone. In the Muslim faith, people are eager to help the needy as a way of observing sadaqah, the duty to overcome miserliness. Many Muslims wanted Yaya to join the group of handicapped people who begged, so that people could give to him. Kadiatou was against Yaya’s doing this, regardless of the enormous struggle she had to support the family. “I faced so much pressure to allow Yaya, in such obvious need, to help people fulfill their duty to sadaqah. I finally relented,” she explains.
Kadiatou continued to be distressed with Yaya’s participating in sadaqah. She prayed that Yaya would get his education and find an occupation where he could use his sharp mind and very able hands. Kadiatou had many doubts about her prayer being answered, but she remained faithful, clutching that thin bit of hope to her heart.
Yaya himself dared not hope. But then an incredible set of circumstances unfolded around him. Nick Veltjens, who worked with orthopedic patients, saw Yaya at the patient screening location the day before consultations began. “I waited all screening day for Yaya to come because I thought we could help him. We didn’t see him that day, so I sent an email around asking if anyone knew where he was.”
According to Yaya, “I did go to the screening with my friend, but I lost my courage.” Yaya left without being examined.

The next day, Dan Bergman, a long-term hospital volunteer, came to Nick with a video of a possible orthopedic patient that he had just seen outside the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic. According to Nick, “What a coincidence that Dan found the same little guy that I was looking for!”
For Dan, this series of events said loud and clear that, “God wanted Yaya to find Mercy Ships. He kept putting him in front of us!” Dan tracked Yaya down at the Mosque and delivered the news that he had an appointment at the hospital ship.
But Yaya missed his appointment. As he says, “I did not believe I could be healed, and so I did not want to tell my grandmother to bring me. She would be too disappointed.” But another divine coincidence occurred that finally put Yaya and Mercy Ships together. A government official, Cellou, who had befriended Yaya at the Mosque, was at the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic that same week. He casually asked what a young boy with deformed legs needed to do to get an appointment. It was quickly realized that the boy in question was Yaya and that he just needed someone to bring him to his appointment.
Cellou immediately went to Yaya’s grandmother with the news about Yaya’s appointment. They agreed that Cellou would go to the hospital ship with the boy. When Kadiatou received the telephone call from Cellou telling her that Yaya was accepted for surgery, she experienced a mixture of emotions. “I was so grateful that Yaya could be helped. It was all that I had prayed for. But I was also very uncertain and afraid. I wondered how it would be possible to fix Yaya’s legs and what he would go through.”
Dr. Frank Haydon, volunteer orthopedic surgeon, was able to fix Yaya’s legs. According to Dr. Frank, “The condition that Yaya was born with caused his bones to be very brittle. As he started to walk, the pressure on the bones caused multiple fractures. The surgery he had aligned his leg bones properly, and the two rods I installed will give his legs the needed strength and structure so he can walk.” 
Each day Yaya does grow stronger. He is starting to take his own steps with the help of a walker, and he has progressed to simple below-the-knee leg casts. But at the same time, each day wears on Kadiatou. She shows the strain of being away from family and being indebted to more and more neighbors. She has borrowed money from them for food and malaria medication. However, regardless of the hardship, Kadiatou’s commitment to see Yaya through his healing journey is unwavering. “I would endure anything so Yaya can do what he longs to do more than anything else – play football. By suffering for Yaya and my family now, I know that there will be great happiness in the future,” she says.
According to his uncle, Yaya’s journey to hope and healing is summed up in a few words: “Yaya is so loved by everyone on Mercy Ships.” And, still, even with so many kind hearts embracing Yaya, there is one who continues to occupy the most special place in his heart. As clear as a bell, Yaya declares, “I love my Grandmother so much! She has done everything for me.”

-Ship Writers

From the very beginning the crew on the ship fell in love with Yaya. Every field service there are a few patients that become keynote patients. These keynote patients have strong connections with many of the crew. Now that Yaya has moved to the HOPE Center everybody is excited when he comes for a visit. With his casts off Yaya can get around very good with his crutches, before long he'll be running around playing football. -Josh