A hospital ship quite rightly focuses on patients. An organisation with a vision of bringing hope and healing to the worlds forgotten poor, quite rightly focuses on African patients. But sometimes we close our eyes and narrow our dreams. Because that’s not it. That’s not the end. Some of my favourite stories are actually the byproducts of our mission. The unexpected joys.
I often find my self asking the question “what is hope and healing for them?”. It’s something a colleague said a while ago. She was referring to medical health professionals in the country but the same is true for our Day Crew. What is hope and healing for them? We focus so heavily on our patients that sometimes we miss what else might be happening. Like Sendra.
I wrote about Sendra once before on my blog which tells more of his story. But I’ll give you a quick overview. Just before the ship arrived he had lost his wife ….. due to a preventable disease and found himself as a single Dad to his 3 year old. He moved in with his Mum and Dad and tried to make ends meet until he was in a road traffic accident and suffered several breaks to his leg and pelvis. He still walks with a limp.
The thing that frustrates me about this story is that he is my age and from a relatively similar background – had loving parents, a roof over his head, food on the table, grew up in the church, went to school, college and got married. Educated and trying to get on with life. Yet, if he had been in England it’s unlikely that his wife would have died, unlikely that he would have been so injured from the accident and highly unlikely that he would have spent 6 weeks in hospital, along with his life savings on inadequate treatment or that he would end up limping.
This is the reality of the birth lottery and poor access to safe and affordable surgery.
For Sendra to learn about wound care, antibiotic treatment, safety in the operating theatre or resuscitation for babies was not a job… it was a revelation that his reality is not everyone’s reality. That the state of his health care system is not a global standard. When we discussed his wife dying, you could see the point when he realised that people don’t die of asthma in other parts of the world. This could have made him angry but it never did. Sendra was always passionate about changing things. He’s a bit of a dreamer. In his local hospital (a national teaching hospital) the mortality rate associated with surgery was 50%. That was his reality.
Sendra saw us teaching and striving to make a difference in his country, he saw us treating patients with empathy and respect, dignity and love and he desperately wanted to be apart of it. To be honest he was a terrible translator. I would say something, he would look at me, mouth gaping and ask me several questions about what I had just said whilst a room full of qualified nurses sat waiting for the translation. He wanted to learn. He translated between midwives at a delivery one day with tears in his eyes. He was so excited to see such a miraculous event and forced me to give a lesson in the Land Rover on the way home about the basics of delivering a baby.
I personally trained and mentored 37 nurses in Madagascar, spent time with them, assessed them, listened to them and facilitated teaching for them; yet Sendra is my biggest mentoring success story. After working together for one year he came to see me, solemn faced and asked my permission to leave Mercy Ships. He said that he wanted to become a nurse. He had learnt so much and wanted to become skilled so the he could continue to teach his own people how to treat patients with dignity and respect and how to be safe in the work place. Translating was not enough. Sad and elated I said goodbye to Sendra.
The Mercy Ships community (a ship full of volunteers, who pay to serve) managed to fill a newly opened bank account with the money Sendra needed to make his dream a reality. I helped him to get set up and left all my text books with him and promised that if he ever graduated (knowing that most of the available odds were set directly against him, not least that he was expected to bribe all the receptionists in the office before they’d physically put his application into the directors in-tray), I would be there.
Be careful what you promise.
My Malagasy friend graduates next month. My flight leaves on the 7th of November. I don’t know what hope and healing looks like for Sendra but I know that his future is brighter as a qualified nurse, that he’ll be able to provide for his son and he may be the most driven and caring nurse unleashed into the Malagasy health care system.
I want to add a personal thank you to everyone that gave money three years ago, I can’t remember who you all are and many people gave anonymously but thank you.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
P.S. There’s a small issue of us not really being able to afford the flights to Madagascar. They cost just over £1,000 which we don’t really have as we are volunteering on the ship and what support we get goes towards our current expenses. So if you’re reading this wondering how you can be a part of this story, then maybe you’d be up for contributing to my journey to attend his graduation? I’m not very good at this bit, but if you’re up for it, you can give on this page: JustGiving – Ally & Amy Jones (the page was originally set up for a 10k fundraiser, but we’ve extended it to help with expenses).