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Friday, September 27, 2013

A Spot of Tank Cleaning

Often maintenance on the ship has to be carried out which is not always that quiet!  At the moment the technical department are in the process of tank cleaning on deck 1, yes that's right, right in the bottom of the ship.  But with this ship being made of steel, steel carries sound extremely well so those up on the upper decks can even hear the noise.
So what is tank cleaning?
Marine regulations and also responsible ship stewardship require the steel tanks to be kept free of corrosion and foreign deposits.  If they aren't cleaned periodically we risk losing our certification to operate the ship and the life spam of the tanks is shortened.  So we are getting ready for our next inspection in 2014.

The Africa Mercy has a total of 72 tanks & there is a regular and on-going schedule for cleaning all the tanks to meet specific inspection dates.  So lots of work to be done.  Currently it has taken one month to get halfway through the 2 tanks that are in the worst condition.   
Often this can also be done by shipyards but the cost is very expensive especially when it needs to be done in a short period of time, so doing it ourselves saves a lot.

In case you are thinking that it's just a matter of popping in with your sweeping brush and cleaning up a bit, read on.  A ship tank is a confined space, so the most important aspect for the cleaning crew of around 3-5 people is safety.  Following the Mercy Ships Safety Management System, no one is allowed to enter the tank until an empty permit is signed off.  This permit verifies that the air in the tank has been checked and certifies that the air is safe and in sufficient supply.  A spotter is on constant watch outside the tank in case an emergency response is needed.  Fire suits, harnesses and emergency escape breathing devices are kept by the entrance of the tank in case of an emergency evacuation.  The tank is illuminated with floor lights and head lamps.  Special protective clothing is worn, including eye goggles, ear plugs/muffs, steel-toed boots, gloves, breathing masks and coveralls.  Sturdy scaffolding is erected and workers wear safety harnesses for fall protection (yes the tank is that big!).  The cleaning work is done with heavy duty pneumatic needle guns capable of removing scale and leaving a clean steel surface.  The scale is collected, hauled out of the tank and then discarded safely.
Scaffolding in the tank
Tank Cleaner hoists out a bucket of corrosion and foreign deposits from the tank

To keep air free of scale particle matter and to replenish the tank with fresh air, an extractor and an air supply fan run continually.

So after all that heavy work two important measures are followed to protect them.  First, the newly cleaned steel surface is coated with Intertuf 16, a powerful defence against corrosion.  Second, the zinc anodes, also called sacrificial anodes, are replaced.  Rust prefers zinc to steel, so the anodes are attacked by the rust rather than the steel.
So next time you hear the tanks are being cleaned you know there's more to the job than meets the eye.
Thank you to our fabulous Technical team or all your hard work

Saturday, September 21, 2013

School Photos

The school decided to have the school photo's taken at the beginning of the year and this year they were done on the bridge - so here is our wonderful son
Nathanael and his 1st grade class - 4 boys and 1 girl who apparently "mothers" the boys
and there always has to be a silly photo
The whole school on board ranging from age 1 to 18:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Screening Patient

2 years ago Emmanuel was diagnosed with "Malaria". He was prescribed antimalarial tablets to help but it didn't seem to work.  So his parents took him to a hospital in Kinshasa where doctors found that in fact it wasn't malaria that he had, there was a tumour in his neck that was slowly suffocating him.  The hospital said they were unable to provide treatment and sent him home.  His breathing began getting worse to the point that he would loose consciousness up to 3 times a day.  His mother started taking him to the hospital every time he passed out but eventually she stopped because they couldn't do anything.

Meanwhile in August his father was working in the port of Pointe Noire when he saw a big white ship, the Africa Mercy, sailing in.  He heard about the hospital and the work we were going to do in the Congo and started to hope that maybe we could help his son.  Although it was still 2 weeks before we had our selection date, the family bought a calendar and started marking off the days to the screening so they could take Emmanuel.

During the screening there was an EMT call ("emergency medical treatment") for this little boy and when the doctor saw him he could hardly breathe.  So he was immediately scheduled for one of the first surgeries on board with the hope that he would have a chance. 

On board he was only awake for small amounts of time, his body struggled to get oxygen, then when he did sleep it would be short because he stopped breathing, time was short.  On the 4th September he was operated on to remove a tumour the size of a fist and it wasn't long before he was released to go home.  
We are thankful to God that we were here just in time for him and now he has a full future ahead of him.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Screening Day

The day started very early for many.  When the day shift security team headed out in the early hours of 5'ish in the morning, already people were gathering in line with a hope of an appointment for surgery.  Within the space of a couple of hours that number of around 600 had risen to 4000-5000 people as many made their way to line up.  One thing we have noticed, the Congolese know how to line up.  I remember on the first morning of our local day crew arriving on board and having to stand in line to get a cup of tea in the dining room, it was funny to see the confused faces of many of our crew members as this was not the norm.  But this must be the norm here as people lined up to wait their turn and it went very calmly.
Here's a time lapse of the crowd over the day:
Throughout the day 311 crew went back and forth to help with the day.  Some handling security and lines, others escorting patients from one station to another, some keeping the kids entertained, others registering the personal details of every potential candidate, water carriers, sandwich sharers, transportation.  Photographers took snaps of each condition, doctors & nurses evaluated patients giving the joyful "YES" or the disheartening "NO".  2 worlds go on side by side, those who carry hope in an appointment card and those who we unfortunately can't help, both take the same path out of the evaluation building.  People gathered at a prayer tent to pray with those who had been declined, others danced with those who we would see again.

Sharon headed out at 11:30-she was part of the patient escort team.  Her job was to escort people to the right surgical evaluations.  The nurses had made it so easy for us by colour coding the paperwork so all we needed to do was follow the right coloured arrow to Plastics, Max Fac's, Orthopedic, VVF, Goiters etc.  The hard part was walking up and down the stairs for each patient, but to be honest, not really hard when your body works fine unlike the many we helped.  It was fun to connect face to face with patients and even practice the poor school French which gave many laughs and broke down barriers and made connections.  Even the mothers who hid their disfigured baby from all, because of their embarrassment, got connected and more relaxed as Sharon asked about their baby. When they would show her, Sharon would tell them they were "trés belle" and some would look at her in disbelief, that somebody would find their child beautiful when the outside world would think they were cursed.  I must admit they were very adorable.  Another one that comes to mind was a young lad who's legs were bent up by his body, his family and friends carried him on a plastic patio chair to wherever he needed to go, even up the two flights of stairs.  I will always the remember the time when he came across our path as we all recited hello in our best french, "Bonjour" or one of the local languages "Mbote" only to be greeted by a boy speaking perfect english.  It surprised us all.  He was fun to be around and he got an appointment so we are all looking out for his visit as I think he's going to have fun on board!
"Sharon helping "Mama" and her little one up the stairs"
 "Upstairs for Max Fac & Plastics"
"Downstairs for the rest"
Around 18:30 the sun was going down but there were still many patients, unfortunately the building that we were all working in had no power so landrover lights shone in various places to see our way.  By 19:30 all those that were left were given an appointment card at the ship to continue their screening in the light.

It was a successful day.  The gate was open from 06:25-18:44.  The total number of people (potential patients and their caregivers) that came to the main gate was 7354.

6354 came through the gate and 4236 received an appointment card for surgery

Here is a video with photo's from the day that our communications team has put together:
Thank you for your prayers