Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hospital of Mercy: Bringing Hope and Healing

Time must tick-tock to a different beat here in Togo. Each and every day holds so many treasures and adventures that when I lay my head down in the evening, I cannot believe all that occurred in just mere hours.

Hopefully, a few of these photos will help to capture the sights I see on a daily occurrence. If only you could hear the song that is constantly arising from the wards, you would truly begin to get the full picture. At any given moment, the patients and their caregivers will lift their voices in praise. The melody is a sweet sound that truly makes me realize that I am walking on holy ground in the halls and wards of Deck 3. We have had many dance parties, as well! The beat of the bongos, strums of the guitar, harmony of the voices and the joyous movement of dance are so spontaneous and yet so consistent.

Previously, I mentioned the premature twins I had the opportunity to work with. Both of the girls are working with the team in the Infant Feeding Program. The program here on the ship truly serves a wonderful purpose and fills the gap for many of the youngest infants here in Togo. There is a local program for infants to receive supplemental nutrition; however, the children must be strong enough to live to be 6 months before receiving of any sort of aid. The goal for Anne and Annie is to continue to follow-up with the Feeding Program here onboard for the next 6 months and then transfer their care to the local program. Below is a picture of Annie.

The following pictures are of Anne. Both of the girls are receiving fortified breastmilk. To watch such a little person drink from a medicine cup is quite the humbling sight to see. All the while, I am captivated by the brightness in their eyes and trust that the Lord will continue to strengthen their growing little bodies.

Anne has one more difficulty that she will face as she gets older. She was born with club feet.

The doctors casted her legs for a couple of weeks to determine if her feet would begin to straighten. For now, she will have to wait until she is bigger and stronger before being able to receive any sort of treatment to straighten her feet.

After each shift of working, I come back to my room and have found that I must take a few minutes to pray. My heart breaks for so many of the families here. Each one has a mingled story of joy, survival and suffering. I find myself starting to write each family's story and then promptly hitting the delete button. Somehow, my words do not seem to find the proper respect that is due to each family. But, I will tell you of one little boy: Espoir, whose name translates to "Hope."

Espoir is the second child for his parents and has a smile that will draw you into his 3 month old world and begging for more! The first child of the family passed away shortly after birth from complications of HIV/AIDS. Devastated, the parents decided to have another child after taking some radical precautions (as far as things go here in Africa) to prevent the transmission of the disease to their newborn. Espoir was born via c-section and is formula fed. (Both of these measures take considerable amounts of money, all of which is quite difficult to come by here in Togo.) However, just after his birth, the two large protruding masses on his forehead could not be avoided. Espoir's parents brought him to the Mercy Ship seeking a cure. Espoir came in, was examined and admitted for a CT scan, had his prescreening blood work completed, etc. Despite all efforts, Espoir's HIV results came back positive. Additionally, his chances for becoming a candidate for surgery are slim do to other circumstances, yet the ability for living a lifetime in the hands of our Father are full of Hope.

Yesterday morning I went to a screening where we meet with approximately 200-250 people who have waited in line to tell the crew of the Africa Mercy their ailments. Their desire is to be treated and/or have surgery. Becca (my bunkmate) and I had the fortunate task of being the "Gate Screeners." We filtered through the individuals, listened to their concerns and with a lot of prayer for wisdom, determined whether or not they would be a potential candidate for surgery. In the end, we were able to send about 30 people through to the next screening station. This was the perk of being the Gate Screener. However, it's difficult to say "no" time and time again under these circumstances. The response to hearing, "I'm sorry -- at this time, we are not able to assist you," was almost always the same... The individual's gaze would drop to the ground and a soft spoken, "Ca va, merci beaucoup..." was uttered. They would turn and walk down the road they had come up several hours prior to meeting us. For many, they will return home with the same sense of shame they had come to us in hopes for a change. As for the individuals that made it past us Gate Screeners, they were filtered through one more nurse before meeting with a physician where the final determination of whether or not surgery will be in their near future. I am looking forward to working with those candidates on the ward! For them, they will be the recipients of a life changing surgery.


  1. Kristen, I love reading your updates. They are amazing. We are so proud of you. We love you and are praying for you, your co-workers, patients and their families. Miss you,

    Ed and Donna

  2. Oh Kristen, it is so amazing to read your posts and see what humbling and amazing work you have been called to do in Togo...Maria and I are so proud of you, and can't wait to get back and hear all of your stories and see all of your pictures. How difficult it must be to be a Gate hear people's stories and know how long they have waited, just to have to tell them that they are not a candidate...your heart must break for them. I love you and I am so happy you have had this opportunity. Love, Lora

  3. Oh Kristen.. I absolutely love your heart and am praying for you and those you are serving upon every single thought!!

  4. Hi Kristen! I just found your blog and have been moved to tears. I'm so glad that you are having such a wonderful experience. You really are something! When I saw that Anne has club feat, my heart jumped. Our son Seth was born with club feat and had casts the first 3 months of his life. It worked beautifully, so don't let them give up on little Anne! I'll be sure to give your mom an extra hug when I see her in church. She's so proud of you, but misses you and worries as well!!! I will keep all of you in my prayers. ~ Maren Finkel

  5. Hi Kristen, Such amazing stories! I thank God for your ministry! Keep up your awesome work!
    God Bless!
    Janet Merritt