“A new hope after the storm…”…Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 9

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” -Romans 15:13

Yesterday morning, as I was filling our power injector with contrast, I saw something that I’ve seen a thousand times during the past 11 years…

A prism.

Normally, I would barely pay attention, but yesterday it was a powerful reminder from our Heavenly Father.

That after every storm, there is a new hope. That His promise remains.

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Week 9 on the Africa Mercy started like every other week & in many ways, it was. Patients were discharged, others continued to heal & new patients were admitted.

But what began as a normal week, quickly turned into something more.

Thursday evening around 7:45, I received a page that I was needed in radiology for a stat CT. They believe a patient has had a stroke after her surgery to remove a thyroid tumor. 

While waiting for the scanner to boot up & for the patient to stabilize for transport, I wanted to go ahead & touch base with the radiologist who reports for us. I wanted to make sure that there was a radiologist available to read this exam as soon as we completed it. Time is precious with stroke patients. I was able to get in touch with them & they were prepared & ready to read the exam.

Or so I thought.

I completed the exam, sent the images over to the connecting drive & contacted the radiologist with all the patient information. Then I waited…& waited…& waited…

The report never came.

I had failed, plain & simple. I’m the only one on board who has the access to send images to the radiologist & the doctors were counting on me to get this exam reported. And I couldn’t. I had let them down. Did I really? No, because I did all I could at that moment. But I still felt like I was failing our patient & doctors. Shortly after 1 am, the doctor decided to call it a night in regards to waiting for the report & I headed back to my cabin. Even though the doctor had accepted the fact that we would be waiting until morning for the report, I set my alarm to wake up every 30 minutes to check my email for the report. Morning came & still no report. Even though I was still feeling like a total failure, I wasn’t able to stay in that mindset for too long as we had quite a few patients coming in for their screening CT & I was by myself in the department. Thankfully, everything went smoothly that morning with us only having one hiccup in the form of a blown vein.

Afternoon came & again, still no report. Undoubtedly something had happened on the radiologists end that had prevented them from reading the exam, but I was still checking my email every 30 minutes to an hour, just to make sure that as soon as I received it, I could pass it on to the doctors.

Not long after I had finally made it to my cabin, around 8pm, an announcement came over head:

“Attention all crew, attention all crew…Emergency Medical Team to OR 3 immediately…Emergency Medical Team to OR 3 immediately.”

I’ve never gotten down from my bunk as quickly as I did in that moment. I quickly threw on my scrubs & was on deck 3 in less than a minute…maybe even 45 seconds. Having a cabin that is merely 22 seconds (while casually walking, not running) from deck 3 definitely has it’s perks. I got the department unlocked & all of our equipment booting up. As the boot up & warm ups were in progress, I headed next door to lab where I could hear our senior lab tech, Jenny, running around. As I rounded the corner, I almost ran into one of our anesthesiologist, Brian, who was bolting into lab to donate blood. I knew then that we must have an active hemorrhage…

To add to the intensity of an active hemorrhage from a major artery, we had a pipe burst & half of the OR was under a inch or so of water. So when I say I almost ran into Brian, I mean I literally almost ran into him. He had taken the quickest way to the lab, which involved running through the flooded hallway, so he was slipping & sliding his way into lab. He jumped up onto the table & was in the process of donating in no time.

And to add yet another level of intensity to this situation, the patient has a blood type of B+…which is a rare blood type…especially on a hospital ship…docked in Africa.

( Side Note: Here on the Africa Mercy, we crew serve as the blood bank. We are the only ones who donate blood for our patients. Anytime there’s a need for a transfusion, if there are limited units available of that blood type, the crew who are matches head to the lab to donate. )

Jenny was still by herself at this time, as I’m not even sure it had been a complete five minutes since the over head page, so I asked if there was anything I could do to help her while the scanner was warming up. She immediately sent me to find 2 of the crew that she knew had this blood type, as she had no time to check the computer at that moment.

I quickly ran up to deck 6, while skimming the rest of the ship on my way, where there was a on board ladies retreat going on, hoping to find these 2 crew we so desperately needed. I finally found one of them & was back to the lab as Brian was finishing up his donation. Again, he was off the table & out the door in a matter of seconds before he turned around & remembered that he needed to take the blood he had just donated with him.

What a incredible thing to witness. To watch someone who just donated blood, take that very unit of his blood with him back to the OR to start the transfusion immediately.

Soon, we were sending another over head announcement:

“Attention all crew, attention all crew…Anyone with a blood type of B+, please proceed to the lab immediately.”

I finished the CT warm ups & got the department open & ready in case they needed to bring the patient our way. By the time I was done, which again, was not more than a few minutes, if that, our hallway was full of people. Everyone who was B+, or thought they might be, flooded the corridor…some in pajamas, some in street clothes, some in scrubs. They each began filing into the lab to donate. An OR nurse was in the lab, ready to run the unit of blood to the OR as soon as it was completed…just to run back to the lab to get the next unit.

Just a few minutes later, another over head announcement was made:

“Attention all crew, attention all crew…If you’re able, please stop what you’re doing & join us in praying for the patient in OR 3. The IOC is also joining us in prayer.”

WOW.

That’s one announcement I never thought I’d hear. Even here at Mercy Ships, a organization that is founded on the model of Jesus.

I stood in amazement as I watched people come together in prayer for our patient. In our hallway, those who were lined up & waiting to donate blood, came together in prayer. Those who were working on the busted pipe, stopped for a moment to pray together. The patients in the ward, all who are hurting & healing themselves, came together in the middle of the ward to pray for their friend who was fighting for his life.

How incredible it is to know that even though most of the 400+ crew was not able to be there to help in person, that they are with you in prayer. That those of you on deck 3 were not fighting this battle alone. That they are lifting up your patient to God…and that’s the best place to be together. As I said a few weeks ago,

The absolute best thing we can do for our patients is to lay their healing at His feet. Because He simply uses us as an extension of Himself. It’s not us who do the healing, it’s Him. It’s not at all about us & the patient, it’s about Him & the patient.

 So knowing that everyone was gathered in prayer for our patient at that moment, was incredible. Because when two or more of us are gathered in His name, He is with us. And He was absolutely with us that night. 

As they were getting down to collecting blood from our last three B+ crew members (two of which could only give half units due to donating not too long ago), Brian came out to let us know that the bleeding was now under control & the patient was stable…still critical, but stable.

I’m not sure what time I actually made it back to my cabin, but as soon as I got there, I collapsed to the floor, tears streaming down my face. I was so overwhelmed by everything that had taken place in the last 24 hours. Overwhelmed that through the grace, mercy & help of God, our possible stroke patient was improving & they were successful in getting this massive hemorrhage under control. I couldn’t help but wonder…Did I do enough for these patients & our doctors? 

As I climbed into my bunk, I couldn’t help but continue to think of the events that had unfolded before my eyes. About everything I had witnessed.

It was the most amazingly beautiful mess of chaos I’ve ever seen.

Working in the ER for several years, I’ve seen my share of chaos. I’ve seen people come together to do whatever needed to be done in order to save our patient. I’ve helped hold pressure on an ruputed artery, I’ve helped perform CPR on patients of all ages…I’ve seen more than I ever imagined…

But I’ve never witnessed anything like the events of Friday night.

Job titles didn’t matter. Nationality, race, religion…none of that mattered.

All that mattered was our patient. Doing what needed to be done in order to save him. And we were successful.

Once again, not much sleep was had Friday night & emotions were high on Saturday morning. As some of us who helped care for this patient sat down to eat breakfast together, we couldn’t help but shed a few tears at all that had happened, & so very quickly.

But for me, & I think for them as well, it was more about how everyone came together so quickly. How even with our busted pipes, our limited resources & staff, we were still able to save this patient. How everyone who was a vital part of saving him, just happened to be in the right place at the right time. How we could feel the presence of our Savior throughout all the chaos. It was overwhelming. It’s still overwhelming.

So as I was preparing for this patients scan yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but notice the rainbow of colors…& I knew God was telling me…

It’s ok…I’m here. Your patients, your fellow crew & you have never been out of My care. Today is a new day, & within this day lies new hope, new mercies…

 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:22-23

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds.” -Genesis 9:12-13

Thank you Father for that wonderful reminder. 

Because still, I hadn’t heard from the radiologist. I still did not have a report to give them for our possible stroke patient…& now, I’m scanning someone who almost lost his life, just hours before. They would absolutely need a report on his scan. But how was I going to get them one? 

Dr. Gary (Parker) mentioned to me in passing that we once had a radiologist in Australia who would read STAT exams for us, that maybe his contact info is still in radiology somewhere. So as soon as I had a opportunity, that became my mission…to find this radiologist & contact him. It wasn’t the easiest thing, but finally, I was able to get in contact with him. And he was an absolute God send. Within an hour or so, he had replied that he would be honored to help out & read these exams for us. And within  a few more hours, I had the reports. As soon as I received them, I couldn’t fight the tears that formed in my eyes. It was truly like a enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders. That feeling of failure was also lifted. Now our doctors had the extra pieces of the puzzle & knew what needed to be done. 

I’m so very thankful to God for sending me not only a symbol of hope, but an angel disguised as a radiologist.

We must remember that He has equipped us with everything we need to complete the path He has laid before us. Even during the times we feel like, “What am I doing here? Am I strong enough to handle this?”.

Are we strong enough to handle this?

No. But HE IS.

And because He lives within us, we ARE strong enough to endure all of the overwhelming moments. We ARE strong enough to continue down this path, no matter how steep the climb may be. We ARE strong enough to complete the mission He has set out before us. We ARE strong enough to serve those around us in His name.

And my fellow Africa Mercy crew, I really am truly humbled & honored to be serving beside you all. In Him, we are strong enough & we can handle anything…& when we come together in His name, for His purpose, we’re even stronger. Keep up the amazing work…you’re changing lives & making a difference in the lives of those you’re serving, as well as those around you.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” -John 15:16

• Patient Update | 30 October 2016 |

Our possible stroke patient is improving by the hour.

Our hemorrhage patient is also stable, still in critical condition, but stable. I went to check on him before heading to bed last night. When I walked in, I was met with his eyes! He was responsive, able to move all extremities & follow commands. In the world of medicine, he should not be alive. But in God’s world, he’s alive & responsive. We’ve witnessed a true miracle. 

Patient Update | 04 November 2016 |

Our possible stroke patient is still improving daily. She was able to walk to the department for a follow up exam earlier this week.

Our hemorrhage patient is also improving daily. His recovery is nothing short of a miracle! By Wednesday, he was sitting up on the side of his bed. On Thursday, he was not only able to stand, but to WALK down the hallway to visit his friends. 

Every single one of us cried as we watched the miracle before us take his first steps after almost losing his life. 

Only. God.

Please continue to pray for them & their healing! •

– Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. –

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4 thoughts on ““A new hope after the storm…”…Mercy Ships in Benin – Week 9

  1. Tanya says:

    Holly – you write so beautifully and bring the reader into the real emotion of the circumstance. You and all who serve with you are making such a difference there and to all who read your posts too!
    Bless you.
    Love,
    Tanya R.

    Like

  2. Tanya McCoy says:

    Holly, you’ve done it again. Your words have touched my heart!! And I too felt the emotions and excitment if the situations you were in. Thank you for taking the time to write and share these journals. God is doing a mighty work in your heart as you serve Him there. I love and miss you here but knowing you are in His will there is comforting.
    I love you
    Aunt Tanya

    Like

  3. Lael says:

    Thank you so much for telling this story! Serving with Mercy Ships has been my dream for ages, and reading your stories just solidifies that passion. Praise be to God for His miracles every day!

    Like

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