Closing the HOPE Center :(

Martha plus Facilitators

These 4 women made my job a million times easier and they helped me to have conversations with the patients and mamas I loved so much. I am so grateful for them.

Well the Hope Center closed 2 weeks ago. We finished packing up last week, and now I am working in HR on the ship til I leave in early August. I’m pretty worn out and am happy we will be sailing soon and the atmosphere is so relaxed when we sail (as long as the waters don’t get too rough and I don’t get sick).

The amount of people who stayed at the HOPE Center this year was the highest Mercy Ships has ever had at a Hope Center. Here’s some crazy statistics:

  • 49,143 total patient and CG nights spent at the HOPE Center
  • 29 days over our 234 bed capacity
  • Open 269 days and had less than 100 people only 7 days total
  • 100,337 lunches and dinners provided by the caterer

It was a crazy, busy year, and I loved it so much! You wouldn’t believe all that goes into running a place like this: getting them all their correct food for their Diet Plans, coordinate appointments and getting them to the ship, placing orders, preparing nutritional supplements, dealing with the many, many issues and problems that come up (many of which are ridiculous or amusing), making sure patients are taking medicine or doing what the doctors and nurses told them to do, etc.

Our Facilitator team worked so well together. Some of our local Day Crew were really great. They had so much work too, cleaning after 200+ people daily (many of whom don’t know what a toilet or a shower are because they don’t have those where they are from), teaching health classes, keeping track of when people are coming and going, giving out diapers and soap and meals, etc.

We had so many fun and cute and sweet patients. I feel so blessed that I was able to do this job for 2 years and to have basically the most amazing boss to have ever lived.

The patients who had the biggest impact on me were the babies. I will be vague for privacy purposes. We had the 3 that I have posted most about, Honorine, Mas-Oudatou, and Paul, who had all stayed with us fooooooorever to gain weight and get healthy for surgery. A good part of the year we thought there was almost no chance she would get big enough for surgery. They tried everything, and eventually the only thing left to do was pray. The other 2 babies were almost definitely going to get surgery. One was 3 months old and 4 lbs when he arrived, but he was gaining weight so fast that he became so fat we were sure he would receive surgery. The other one was super small and unhealthy for her age so we wanted to take as much time as possible for her to stay with us so we could make sure she was getting good nutrition to get healthy. Since she was older she was big enough for a minor cleft lip surgery, so we weren’t worried.

But coming close to the end everything was turned up on its head. They all got difference types of infections or sicknesses that prevented surgery and/or made them lose weight. One of my fellow Facilitators suggested we ask the chaplains onboard to ask for all the crew members and day crew to pray for them. We also posted on Facebook that we needed prayers. When one of these babies got sick, it indirectly provided the solution to get her healthy for surgery. The other two had their surgeries postponed and postponed.

When I was called when my favorite baby’s surgery was cancelled for the second time, it killed me because they weren’t sure if she would be well enough by the day the following week for surgery. So there was lots of crying. A few hours later the baby and her mama came back to the HOPE Center. Her mom was sobbing and so sure her baby would never get her surgery or be healthy or normal. I sat with her and cried with her and talked to her through Beatrice’s translation (our day crew who speaks her language). That was one of the hardest conversations of my life. I told her we wouldn’t give up and we would keep fighting and getting her to eat and drink as much healthy food as possible and keep trying to get her strong enough to walk, and it wasn’t over and she would hopefully get her surgery. I didn’t even really believe it at the time myself and was so broken hearted and knowing it was even harder for her mom.

That next week they all got surgery. I sat in the hospital allllllllll day long with that mama trying to support and distract her. The other 2 babies had already received their surgeries, so all of those mamas and babies were there to keep her company too. There were lots of cheers and hugs when she got back from surgery. I’ve never been so relieved. What was really awesome too was that the night after her surgery, there was a community meeting with all of the crew and with the national offices around the world. Because everyone had been praying so much for these 3 babies, they did a feature on the Infant Feeding Program, and the ship’s nutritionists gave a talk, and all of these babies and their moms were invited to the meeting and were celebrated.

My favorite part was when Lee-Anne, one of the Nutritionists, honored and thanked the moms for their nonstop hard work to get these babies big and healthy. Sometimes our patients have to completely disrupt their lives to come to where the ship is for a long time to go through the screening process, surgery, and recovery time. These mamas and the babies stayed the longest. One arrived the day the HOPE Center opened in August and left the day we closed in May. That mom had her work cut out for her too because that baby was so stubborn and hated eating.

Nurses and Dieticians together with some of the babys and their mothers that have been part of the Infant Feeding program.

I love these 2 more than I can put into words.

 

Since they left 2 weeks ago, two of the moms have repeatedly called Beatrice (who speaks their language) to greet her and me. They don’t have internet where they live (or even know what that is), so I gave them Beatrice’s number so she can message me if they ever need me.

Now all of us who had to live in the team house are now living and working on the ship and loving it. One of our Day Crew named Ruth who worked in Reception at the HOPE Center, was hired on as Crew and will be a Facilitator next year. She’s so amazing, and I’m so glad I have gotten to introduce her to the ship and a new amazing experience (even though it might be a little terrifying). I’ll miss her, but I know once she gets the hang of it she will probably be better at my job than me.

Luckily I get to hang out with her and a few other good friends over the summer as we do a super long sail to the Canary Islands and go into shipyard. While I’m so sad I won’t be with patients or doing the job I love most, shipyard phase is necessary for us to keep doing what we do, so its cool to help out in a different way. I have always wanted to learn about the Mercy Ships HR process, so I’m very happy to be going into this job.

Peace out. I’ll be back in the US in August.

Advertisements

Fun at the HOPE Center

We have been having a lot of fun with the kids at the Hope Center lately. Having between 200-260 patients and caregivers staying here each day, it gets a little chaotic, and we get to deal with some new crazy issues every day. It keeps it interesting.

The above photos are our “good quality” pictures taken by my co-Facilitator Ian Graham. It is amazing having this talent around when I want cute pictures.

As always, you can help support me by Donating to help me get through my last 4.5 months, you can pray for me, and you can especially pray for these 2 patients I talk about below.

Honorine and Mas-Oudatou

Anytime I’m not swamped with work I usually go out of the office searching for Honorine or Mas-Oudatou to practice walking or play or do whatever. Inevitably I am surrounded by kids very quickly, which can be fun or drive you crazy. Honorine is the one in the blue in the top pictures. She is 2 years old. She is very weak and malnourished but getting stronger every day. Mas-Oudatou is the one with the weird hair. Our goal for both Honorine and Mas-Oudatou is for them to get healthy, get their surgeries, and to be able to walk before they go home.

Mas-Oudatou has been here all year. She and her amazing mom, who I love, have been at the Hope Center longer than anyone ever I think. She got here the week we opened and will probably be here close to the end if she is able to get her palate surgery. She has stayed here so the Nutritionist can check up on her every week. She is gaining weight much slower than we would like, so its up in the air whether she will be big enough for surgery. We can only encourage her to eat (even though she is extremely stubborn) and pray. She turned 1 this month. I don’t think I have ever seen another person with as many facial expressions as her. She is so funny. And she has been standing and grabbing anything that will help her walk since she has been here. It really surprises me that she can’t walk by herself yet, but when she can she will be going everywhere nonstop. I’m very excited for that day.

I love Honorine soooo much, even though she has had a Love/Hate relationship with me. You can read some of my previous blogs for her story. She was here in December, and she was in such bad shape and so weak, and I just wanted to take care of her. She came back in January with her mom, who is very attentive and loving, and I am so glad she is here with her instead of the father. Honorine and I continued being best buds til she got sick and repeatedly had to go to the ship to get her blood drawn by white people in scrubs (just like me), and she was screaming and crying and decided she was now scared of and hates white people. It probably didn’t help that I went to be with her one of the times her blood was taken. For several days after, she would cry every time I came near (same with all white people). Over time she slowly liked me more, except in the mornings when she was tired or if any other white people came near. She is adorable when she gets sad or scared. She lifts her right arm over her head, and her mouth gets wider and wider, like she is yawning, until she cries. Its so weird, but very cute and sad, but it is helpful because I know when she is starting to get upset or scared and can comfort her or take her back to mama. She still gets a little scared of any new people, especially if they are white, but she and I are best friends again.

Last week I took her to see Rehab at the tent so we could get her a walker to get her walking. You might think she is just a baby who is taking a while longer than others to start walking when you first look at her, but she is a 2 year old and is literally 1/2 the size of my nephew who is the same age. Also, when you walk with her or do anything with her you can just tell how weak she is. When she is just hanging out, when you would expect a kid to be sitting or crawling, she is always laying down because it seems exhausting to her just to keep her body up. The walker is helping her practice more often. She gets tired of us walking her pretty quickly, but she will do the walker longer. Her mom also works hard with her on some other techniques they showed us in rehab. I’m extremely worried she will never be normal. She walks on the insides of her feet unless we put shoes on her, so her legs might deform. She just seems so far behind and not normal. So please, please pray for her and her mama.

Here are a few pictures with some of the patients we hang out with every day. Its pretty cool that we can all have fun and play games when we all speak different languages. I love my job so much! Thank you for those who have supported me and helped me to be able to do this work.

Christmas at the HOPE Center!

We had an amazing Christmas at the HOPE Center! We gave out gift bags for all patients and caregivers staying with us (thanks to donations from the crew and a couple different national offices!) on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas day we had a big special meal with all of the patients. Everyone was just so happy the whole time. It was so much fun. This post is mostly just photos. Photo credit for all the Christmas pics: Ian Graham

As always, the HOPE Center, all the patients, and I would gladly accept all of your prayers. Thank you so much to my supporters! If anyone would like to support me in all of this work, please consider donating HERE (it is tax deductible 😉

img_9822

Christmas Dinner

HONORINE – This little girl is so malnourished and dehydrated, is almost 2 years old, and can’t even crawl or stand. She was miserable and filthy when she first arrived. All it took was a few days of us loving her to transform her. She had to go home so her mother could come back as her caregiver instead of her father. She is supposed to be back mid-January for us to get her healthy over a couple months and then they will do her cleft lip surgery. I’m very worried about her getting back. Its a 3 day bus ride, and her area of Cameroon is where there is a lot of terrorists. Please pray for her.

The Babies of the Hope Center + Others

I woke up early this morning to go see my favorite patient Hamed Cherif off at the bus stop since I was off work. I’m proud of myself for saying a Happy Goodbye and not crying. This blog is about a few of our babies since those are the ones I usually become most attached to. I think its because we are the most hands-on with a lot of them because most of them need to gain a lot of weight, so they always come to the office for milk or porridge that we make them and maybe also because they are so cute.

Hamed Cherif

I love this little guy so much, and I love his mom too. She’s so happy and crazy and makes Hamed laugh sooo much. Its adorable. I think I first started to try to play with him a lot mostly because he reminded me of Samsdine from last year. He was pretty skinny too, not nearly as skinny as Samsu was but still tiny, and he also had a cleft lip/cleft palate. I’m sad we don’t have any pictures of Hamed from before his lip surgery. I don’t even really remember what he looked like before.

He’s around a year and a half now, and his mom and I both spent the last few months trying to get him to walk on his own, but he just won’t do it. She got him to where he could stand on his own a little bit, but once you get him to come to you, he bends over to crawl. Also, he’s always so happy except when his mom brings him to the office to get his porridge. We take the cup, and it takes a minute or two to make. The whole time he is grumpy and groaning and reaching out for it. Its so cute. That little baby loves his food. Today he is going home to his papa and 3 brothers.

Paul

Paul is the baby who came to us looking like an alien. We had a super tiny baby last year who looked kinda scary at first too, but I’ve never seen anything like this baby. I didn’t know how he was still alive. Here’s a couple pictures of his face in the first month he was here, but they don’t do him justice. I was terrified he was going to die at the beginning. Now he is super fat and has had his lip surgery. He blows out of his lips now and seems amazed he can do that. Also, its so cute when he tries to smile with his mouth still being so tight. He can barely do it. He is a cutie, and his mom is so attentive to him. I think he will probably go home soon, and I really hope we can do his palate surgery at the end of the field service even though he won’t quite be 1 year old.

Yousouffa, Mas-Oudatou

I mentioned this baby in my last blog post 3 months ago. In that time she’s at least 50% bigger and has had her lip surgery done. I’ve been so worried about her. Paul grew so fast, and it felt like Mas-Oudatou just remained stagnant. We could not get her to eat. It is still a huge struggle to get her to. She is one stubborn little baby. After being here over a month, we had to send her to the ship because she was sick and because the nurses there have more time to really focus on just a few patients at once, so they could make sure she eats. She still refused to eat, and they said some of what she was eating was going into her lungs, so they eventually put her on a feeding tube for like a week, so she gained a little weight and they did her surgery.

She came back to the Hope Center, and we struggled again to get her to eat. If she ate and gained weight, we were told they could go home to gain more weight and get older so they could come back near the end of the field service for the palate surgery. Mas-Oudatou would cry and cry when we tried to feed her, and she shook her head No every time. Her mom made a joke that Mas-Oudatou doesn’t want to leave, so that’s why she refuses to eat. Now she is eating a little better, but the mom was very hesitant on whether she could gain as much weight at home, so I think its been decided that they will probably just keep staying with us until her palate surgery, which is such a relief to me. I was getting so worried because for weeks she didn’t gain weight. I didn’t know what else we could do, but its all looking up now.

She is also soooo cute (even with the weird hair) and so fun. She laughs and laughs if you pick her up or if I sit with her she grabs my hands and makes them clap. I’m glad she will be her a long time, and I think her mother is too. At first her mom wouldn’t even look at us; she just looked down and seemed scared. Now she is very proud of the English she has learned, and every single time she sees us, she says “How are you? I’m fine” and “Thank you”.

Our new baby

A little baby arrived this week with one of our buses who her father says is almost 3, but she is the size of like a 10 month old. She can sit but can’t crawl or stand. I’m not sure why her mother couldn’t come with her, but the dad doesn’t seem to know a lot about babies. The first day they were here one of our amazing day crew taught him how to use diapers and told him to wash her every day and got him to go wash the baby’s clothes because she was filthy.

IMG_9822Her skin is cracked really bad, so not only is she very malnourished but also super dehydrated. She had a fever and really bad cough when she got here and had no emotion except crying. I’ve been trying to hold her and hug her and play with her as much as I can. The ship was adament that she needs to eat and drink a lot of water, so yesterday I begged another facilitator to let me work for them, so I could make sure she was getting all she needed. We made some special rehydration water, and I basically stayed with her half the day because the dad would just leave her sitting outside or leave her with this 12 year old girl who is staying here who all the moms bring their baby too anytime they need to wash or do anything. I got her to drink quite a bit of water, and she could even hold the cup and drink it herself. Now she laughs and smiles a lot and seems like she is feeling much better. I’ve taught her to clap and fist bump, which she loves.

Hopefully I will have some good updates and pictures to post of her in the future…

Ortho Kids

As always, thanks sooo sooo much to everyone who is supporting me. This year is definitely more of a struggle financially than last year. I literally couldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for all of you who sponsor me, so it means so much to me.

If you would like to support me financially here, you can donate through Mercy Ships HERE. It is Tax Deductible!

Beginning of the Year in Cameroon

Ulrich (Junior), orthopedic patient, before surgery.

I have never been so stressed or busy in my life! The Hope Center team arrived in Cameroon over a week before the ship arrived because we would be opening almost right after the ship got here. So we got here, did an orientation with our 40 local Day Crew, did what training we could, and started setting up everything that arrived in the Advance container.  The problem was that we only had some space in the Advance container, so we couldn’t put a lot in it. We were also supposed to get another container that had 100 of the beds we needed before the ship arrived, but it got locked up in Customs, so we didn’t end up getting it until 2 days before we opened. We just kept hoping and waiting and waiting some more. We couldn’t do anything else until the ship arrived, and then we knew it would be craziness.

The ship arrived Wed, Aug 16th, but they wouldn’t be able to get our container off of it until Saturday. Then, we were supposed to open Tuesday, but that weekend, they said we were going to receive 166 people on Monday instead of Tuesday! So we had Saturday and Sunday to set EVERYTHING up, and we have a lot of stuff. We also had to set up 226 beds, and that takes a long time. The problem was that Saturday morning we had to take all of our Day Crew to a Mercy Ships orientation on the ship, and they had church Sunday morning. So basically we had half a day Saturday and half a day Sunday to set up. Nope! Not possible. It wasn’t gonna work.

Patients didn’t end up arriving until Tuesday, and it was only like 70 of those 166 on the first day. The rest of the people came on different buses every day for a week. We had a million things to organize, patients to tend to, and I had 4 other Facilitators and 40 Day Crew to train. For 9 days straight, I worked at the Hope Center from 6:30am-8:30pm, and then I would go home and do at least 2 hours of computer work before sleeping for 5 or 6 hours. Some days I was so stressed by the end of the day that if someone talked to me, I would have cried. At the same time, it was such an amazing experience. I love being busy if it is for a purpose. All of this absolutely had to be done! I didn’t have time for sleep or for free time. I think I even lost some weight because I didn’t have time to eat, which was okay by me. My adrenaline was pumping constantly. When I would try to sleep, I kept thinking of what I needed to do the next day and would be grabbing my phone every two seconds to write it down.

Our Patients

On the first couple of days, when we got the Ortho kids, it was the most shocking thing in the world. All of the kids last year had really messed up legs, but I have never seen anything this bad. When some of them sit down, their legs are bent up to where their feet are resting on their shoulders. It’s crazy. Some of their legs look like they are on backwards. How this is even possible is beyond me.

Junior: This boy is like the coolest kid ever to me. His legs are shaped so that in order to walk, he either walks on his calves, or he leans forward and uses sticks to walk around like a spider. He has adapted so well he can do anything. We have these little toy Tonka trucks, and he would rest his legs on the truck and roll around. Watching him play soccer is the craziest thing ever. He can actually do it even though he’s done on all fours, and he does this thing where he bounces his legs around. It’s incredible. He still has so much fun. He’s my hero. It’s funny because he was probably made fun of his whole life, but here he is like a movie star. Everyone has heard of him; everyone wants to take pictures with him.

 

As always, thanks sooo sooo much to everyone who is supporting me. This year is definitely more of a struggle financially than last year. I literally couldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for all of you who sponsor me, so it means so much to me.

If you would like to support me financially here, you can donate through Mercy Ships HERE.