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Friday, April 27, 2012

Life is Sweet for Abel

If you've heard us speak at church, many of you might remember the story of Abel with the backward legs (also featured briefly in this post blog: Abel post 2010 ).  Now we are back in Togo, Mercy Ships has been able to also follow up on past patients and recently we had Abel return for a check up on his legs.  It is so good to hear how they are doing so here is a story written by one of our journalists on board about his return.
Abel Dalome was beaming. He and his father, Koudjo, were enjoying a quiet moment together in the Mid-Ships Café onboard the Africa Mercy hospital ship. Just over two years had passed since Abel had received free medical care from Mercy Ships to correct a severe misalignment in both of his legs. In fact, both of his legs had turned completely backward at the knees. Now, Abel was back at Mercy Ships for a routine check-up. Koudjo was thrilled. He only had good news to report about his son’s progress. He disclosed that on the journey to the ship, Abel had declared, “I will tell them that my life is sweet!”
Koudjo described the amazing transformation in his son’s life. “Before Mercy Ships, we thought that our son would only know pity. We worried that he would not have a life to do something good. And everybody told us that this would never change. But Abel’s life did change. After Abel recovered from the surgery, there was a satisfaction I cannot describe. Now, Abel will go on to do many good things.”
At that moment, Abel’s face lit up with a wide smile as he watched a very special friend appear at his side. Nurse Anna Parthun had tended to Abel during his hospital stay in 2010. When Abel suffered from an infection in one of his legs, Anna showered Abel with even more care. “My mission was to get at least one smile out of Abel every day. The funny faces I drew on inflated surgical gloves always worked best!” she said with a smile.
Now, looking at such a grown-up boy, Anna took notice of the wonderful change in Abel. “He has a new confidence, and his personality is so bright. Just like other boys his age, he is outgoing and energetic. I am so grateful to see how readily he likes to smile. No more need for surgical balloons,” she observed with satisfaction.
Abel shared news with Anna about his activities since returning home after his surgery. “I am going to school, and I walk there all by myself. I am so happy for that. I go to my grandfather’s farm and to the market. I can do all of these things on my own,” he reported joyfully. Abel also confirmed that he was still active in his favorite hobby, playing soccer with his friends in the village.
Mercy Ships volunteer physiotherapist Joanne Gates then took Abel under her tender wing for his follow-up examination. “I examined Abel to determine the progress he has made since surgery. We are especially interested in assessing his strength, range of motion and quality of walking, as well as finding out if he is experiencing any problems. I was pleased that Abel had progressed so well within his limitations,” she explained.
Joanne also arranged for Abel to have x-rays taken of his legs to confirm that all had healed well internally. The x-rays were e-mailed to Dr. Frank Haydon, who had performed Abel’s surgery. Dr. Frank replied joyfully, “Abel’s x-rays look good. His protruding bone is just a product of the necessary surgery because there was such an extreme angulation in the femur. So, we have a very positive outcome here!”
Abel’s dear friend Anna was ecstatic. “Seeing Abel was the highlight of my service with Mercy Ships this time. To be here to witness how he has grown up is a blessing. And now, I know that, in every detail, Abel’s surgery is a permanent success. I thank God, in His grace, mercy and love, for these gifts,” she said.
As Abel and his father departed from the Mercy Ships HOPE Center, where they stayed for their follow-up visit, Koudjo spoke of how he has decided to show his gratitude for all that Mercy Ships has done for his son. “I bring people to Mercy Ships who need help. I brought one person with a tumor, and I will bring my sister’s baby who has a cleft lip. I do this in my own car and with no charge to them,” he explained.
Koudjo has turned his gratitude into acts of compassion. With his help, others will experience the medical care offered by Mercy Ships, and their lives – like Abel’s – will become sweet again.
Story by Joanne Thibault
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell and JJ Tiziou

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dr Leo

On 10 February 2012, Mercy Ships welcomed Dr. Leo Cheng onboard the Africa Mercy for his ninth visit.  We always enjoy a vist from Leo, he seems to cheer up a room the moment he walks in, plus he is always blessing us with some delicious cheese or chocolate from home.   His self-described “boyish madness” is a wonderful spirit-raiser for patients and crew alike.
 Originally, it took quite a determined effort to convince Dr. Leo – an oral, maxillofacial, head and neck surgeon in the United Kingdom – to sign on as a Mercy Ships volunteer. Around 2001 his priorities were 2.2 kids, the investment account and his mortgage. In his mind, working for Mercy Ships was for Mother Teresa. But this didn’t deter Lord Ian McColl, who had his sights set on recruiting Dr. Leo to accompany him to the Mercy Ships field service in Benin, West Africa.
Dr. Leo recalls the “tipping point” fondly: “I received a call from Lord McColl’s office one day, asking me to please hurry and get my yellow fever vaccination. Lord and Lady McColl needed me to go to Benin with them. I was totally dazed at first. But then I put away my secular world excuses and recanted. I made the needed arrangements and began my Mercy Ships service.”

That experience changed Dr. Leo’s life. He saw how volunteers came to Mercy Ships because of their love for people and for each other. And then there was Dr. Gary Parker. He had never met anyone more Christlike. His model of hope and healing was something he had not experienced in his First World setting. His compassion showed him that he also had something he could offer the poorest of the poor.”

Dr. Leo Cheng discusses the successful outcome of a thyroid surgery.

Dr. Leo acknowledges how important the support of his family has been to contributing two of his five weeks of annual vacation to be on the surgical roster for Mercy Ships. His wife Hilary and his daughter Kat have both accompanied him to the Africa Mercy to contribute their volunteer skills as well. (His younger daughter Zoe is also planning to serve on the ship.) When Dr. Leo’s annual onboard service is over, he returns to London and immediately starts work on his second Mercy Ships mission. Dr. Leo patiently and persistently convinces the manufacturers of the latest surgical equipment to contribute returned demonstrator units and one-generation-prior models to Mercy Ships.

He feels that it is a real privilege that when he is not serving on the ship physically he can fulfill another mission he feels that God has for him. He persuades the companies to contribute machines that he knows would be very helpful to him, Dr. Gary, and the other surgeons coming from all over the world. When this equipment is on the ship, any surgeon from Australia, New Zealand, America or Canada will feel like they are going from home to home while on Mercy Ships.
For the Togo 2012 Field Service, Dr. Leo secured four pieces of important surgical equipment from Ethicon Endo-Surgery, including a fully outfitted Harmonic Scalpel. The Harmonic Scalpel is a wonderful blessing for all thyroid surgeons who routinely must contend with removing the extremely large goiters that are commonplace in West Africa. This instrument is like a pair of blunt scissors with ultrasound waves at the tip. When we have to cut vessels behind a very large goiter, we need to avoid bleeding so we can see the surgical area. The Harmonic Scalpel makes the cut, while at the same time it seals the ends of the blood vessels. This greatly reduces the risk of complications – like inadvertently damaging a nerve which would cause hoarseness. The Harmonic Scalpel also does its job very quickly. This reduces surgery time and the risk of complications. Dr. Leo was also pleased that the Ethicon Endo-Surgery donation included other helpful items for the OR toolkit. Now there are some very good additions to call upon.
Dr. Leo Cheng performs thyroid surgery using the Harmonic Scalpel.

The Nerve Stimulator can differentiate a blood vessel from a nerve, which is especially important when cutting into obscured surgical areas.

Dr. Leo Cheng uses the Neurosign 100 Laryngeal Nerve Stimulator, an equipment donation he arranged from Magstim

Tissue Patches, a specialized synthetic cellotape, will be used for patching over a multitude of tiny blood leaks in the surgical area to prevent a major leak from developing.
Multiple small leaks in the tissues surrounding the thyroid surgical area will be effectively stopped by the Tissue Patch 3 rapid barrier

And everyone will find the Braidlock helpful. This is a new clamping device to hold drainage tubes securely and safely in place, eliminating the need for tubes to be surgically stitched into place.
Post-surgery drainage tubing is safely and securely in place with the Braidlock line fixation device.

Dr. Leo co-authors scholarly research articles on the topic of thyroid surgery. He takes the time, while onboard, to make this knowledge accessible to everyone. His evening lectures inform and educate the crew. His gift for lightheartedness makes a complex topic understandable and enjoyable. He also weaves a compelling and encouraging message about faith into his presentation. The gentle humility in Dr. Leo’s heart is evident as he reflects on his contribution to Mercy Ships over the years: “There is so much saintly work going on here. While I am here for these two weeks, l want to bottle up all of the holiness into jars and release it in my OR back home. This ship is filled with gems – all precious cargo.”

And, one of brightest and kindest gems onboard the Africa Mercy every year is Dr. Leo.  It was only a few years ago that Sharon's parents were on their way to New Zealand.  Whilst waiting in an airport they noticed a man wearing Mercy Ships shirt!  Out of curiousity they went and talked to the man, it was Dr. Leo.  So even when he's not here, he's wearing it!
Leo, we look forward to seeing you again in Guinea.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coca Cola and Healthcare?

During the Mercy Ships patient screening in Lomé, Togo, in February of 2012, approximately 1600 people in desperate need of medical care were evaluated. The day was very long for those patients, their caregivers, and 200 Mercy Ships volunteers. A generous sponsor stepped forward to provide something that gave vital relief.
Brasserie Benin, the producer and distributor for Coca Cola in Benin, and Coca Cola donated 4,800 bottles of VITALE water to be distributed throughout the day. Patient Screening Coordinator Esther Blaum was extremely grateful for the generous contribution. “Given the heat, the ready and ample access to water ensured that people remained properly hydrated. Our youngest and oldest patients are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures,” she said.
 The following week a special reception was held onboard the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, to honor Brasserie Benin and Coca Cola for supporting the Mercy Ships screening in such an essential way. Over twenty-five representatives of the donation partners, plus media representatives, attended the event, which included a tour of the state-of-the-art hospital ship.
Following the tour, participants gathered to watch a moving video presentation featuring the transformative work of Mercy Ships.  Donovan Palmer, Africa Mercy Managing Director, extended sincere thanks to Brasserie Benin and Coca Cola for their support. “This type of humanitarian gesture not only assists Mercy Ships with its logistics, but it is also an example of how corporate entities can be part of health care.” The group continued informal discussions as Mr. Bruno Kerguen, Deputy Managing Director of Brasserie Benin, shared news about an additional contribution that was on its way to Mercy Ships.
 “We are donating 450 cartons of VITALE water and Coca Cola soft drinks to support and encourage the volunteer crew of the Africa Mercy. There is a natural alliance we feel with Mercy Ships. This humanitarian mission has the same spirit of excellence as Coca Cola and Brasserie Benin. Mercy Ships helps people to feel better in their body and to give health to them. It is a fabulous partnership for us.”

Mr. Max Adedje, Brasserie Benin’s Export Manager, echoed these sentiments.
“Brasserie Benin greatly appreciates the spirit behind the work of Mercy Ships. The people who volunteer on the Africa Mercy give their talents, resources, and precious times of their life to save others. It is worthy to appreciate and encourage such people.”
Mercy Ships is optimistic that the Brasserie Benin--Coca Cola sponsorship will continue to grow. Mr. Prosper Tchouambe, Coca Cola General Manager, confirmed that optimism by stating, “I am very glad for today. The work of Mercy Ships is new to me, and I am so impressed. The partnership between Coca Cola and Mercy Ships is a very good partnership. We started in Ghana, and now it is extended to Togo. We hope that it will continue to be extended to other countries of Africa.” Mr. Moussa Toure, Coca Cola Operations Director (Benin and Togo), who coordinated the donation between Brasserie Benin and Mercy Ships, summed up how the partners feel about their involvement: “The results are even beyond what we imagined it would be. It is so completely worthwhile.”

Friday, April 06, 2012

Resurrection Rolls

This year we decided to make some "Resurrection Rolls" instead of hot cross buns.  Here's how to do it.

¾ cup warm water  /  1 large egg  /  3 cups flour   /  1 teaspoon salt  /  3 tablespoons sugar  /  6 tablespoons butter  /  3 tablespoons dry milk  /  1- ½ teaspoon yeast  
½ cup butter (melted)  /  1 cup sugar  /  1 tablespoon cinnamon  /  24 marshmallows

First mix the first eight ingredients together and leave to rise until doubled in size.
 Divide dough into 24 pieces.  (we found this was too much, I'm guessing it's depending how well your dough has risen).  Then flatten each piece.
Melt the butter in one bowl and mix the sugar and cinnamon together in another bowl.  Dip the marshmallow into the melted butter.
(The marshmallow represents Jesus and His purity.  The melted butter represents the oil of embalming)
 Then into the cinnamon sugar mix.
(Represents the spices used to anoint Jesus' body)
 Place the covered mashmallow on your flatten dough piece.
 Wrap it up tightly in the dough.
(Represents Jesus being put in the tomb)
 Place on a greased baking tray
 We rolled the outside in the butter and cinnamon mix too.  Then bake in the oven at F350 for 15 minutes.
 When you bite into them most of the marshmallow (Jesus) has gone (He has risen!)
 If your dough is a little thin the marshmallow does just burst out of the top and "Jesus' doesn't "rise" from the tomb!  But they are still VERY yummy.
We will definately do these again.  We will probably cut the dough into less pieces to guarantee that "Jesus" rises in all of them.

Happy Easter to you all!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

2000th Dental Patient

This week the Dental Team celebrated their 2000th patient for the Togo 2012 field of service.
Next week we'll give you a glimpse into the Dental Teams life.