…is to love. Meet Ali. She is the epitome of selfless love. But she does more than that. She sacrafices. She heals. She nutures. But more than anything she loves.
I started reading Ali’s blog just this week, but it has quickly become one of my favorites. Ali, 25, serves as a nurse on the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, the M/V Africa Mercy. Following the example of Jesus, Mercy Ships seeks to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has performed more than 32,500 surgeries.
Here is her blog post from Tuesday. Please read. Please pray for Ali as she serves and as she loves.
Funny how I was just commenting on my cathartic need to write. Because today will take some sorting.
I’ve been here almost seven months now and I’m one of the more experienced nurses around. Scary, I know. So they’ve asked me to start doing some charge shifts. It was inevitable but, truth be told, I’m not jumping out of my skin with excitement. I’m much more content pottering through a shift with my four or twelve patients and not really worrying about anything else. God, however, knows what’s best for me, so off to charge-land I shall go. Today was my second day of orientation, and I was starting to get a feel for things. At which point, The Call came.
Hi. This is Reception. There’s a patient out on the dock.
I asked my boss yesterday what I should do if I ever got The Call while in charge. She made it sound so easy. If they’re not someone we did surgery on, tell them no. Send them away. Be firm. Be kind. Tell them no.
And when we went outside there was a white woman holding the smallest brown baby and it was raining and all her suitcases were huddled around her like sentries and he sounded like Baby Greg when he breathed. I took him in my arms, stood there on the dock and prayed God, no. I can’t do this again. I can’t watch another one die.
We found shelter at the top of the gangway and discussed what to do. The little one in my arms gasped and coughed, his lip split in two angry gashes, his palate a gapaing hole and his hair soft in tiny ringlets against my arm. We couldn’t admit him; we don’t even have enough beds for our own patients right now. So we brought them inside to wait until we could find someone willing to drive them to the MSF pediatric hospital where he could be seen by a pediatric doctor.
I stood in the cafe, my body swaying in a rhythm I didn’t know as the small one’s cries quieted and he fell asleep. The woman sitting in the chair in front of me, eyes tired, shared her story with me.
She wasn’t planning on any of this. She was just a mother from Minnesota, a mother with one child alive and two taken from her in a car accident a few years ago. She was just a nurse, an ER nurse who wanted to come and serve God for a few weeks in Liberia. She had been working up country at a bush hospital when she heard of this little one. He had been abandoned by his mother, convinced that her own pregnancy had been stolen from her and this evil spirit baby with the hideous face replaced in her womb. Of course she didn’t want him. (At which point the little one grunted and settled closer into my arms, one tiny hand curled up against a mocha cheek.) Cathi, the woman sitting in front of me, explained that they were just feeding him water, waiting for him to die.
No, she said. He needs milk. I will give him milk. There was no milk at the hospital, and if she wanted him to have it, she would have to take him home. So she did. She got back to the house where she was living, and her understandably surprised roommates asked her the baby’s name. She pointed to the man who had seen her home safely; Matthew. ‘Left with adoptive mother’ is what the note in his chart read, and she figured Why not make that truth?
You see, Cathi has a room in her home in Minnesota all ready for a baby. She and her husband have been working for years to adpot a baby to fill that room; she just wasn’t planning on finding him in the Liberian bush, clinging to his little life with dogged persistence. God, however, seems to have had other plans, because all the paperwork for the adoption was finalized within two weeks. I’m not going to lose this one, she told me, her expression unreadable, somewhere between despair and determination.
We drove through the market traffic to the MSF hospital, descending from the car into a sea of babies and mamas and little children swathed in thick bandages, the edges of their burns showing angry red where the gauze had slipped. We opened the door to the ER to see skeletal children being fed through tubes, babies lying listlessly, two or three on each low cot, and a group of doctors and nurses quietly trying to save the life of a newborn on a table in the middle of the room. No, this isn’t urgent. We’ll wait outside.
Back out into the damp heat to smile and pull faces at the little kids surrounding me, trying to ignore the thoughts in my head. These are the kids who will need Mercy Ships later on, when their burns have healed badly and their little fingers and elbows and necks are locked in scars. These are the babies who need to be fed every few hours, but there might not be enough milk here either. These are the ones you can’t help. You aren’t doing enough.
Matthew was seen by the ICU doctor. He didn’t have pneumonia and wasn’t sick enough to be admitted. We brought them back to the ship and another crew member drove them to a local hotel where Cathi is going to continue her vigil until he’s well enough to fly home. And I went back to work. Played with the kids on our wards. Put in some IVs, answered some questions, fought back tears.
How is it okay? How can I go to sleep in my room tonight knowing that Cathi is in town somewhere, fighting for little Matthew’s life? I’m sitting here and I can’t erase the images from my head. All those kids. Waves of suffering and humanity and hope and we drove up in our white Landrover and they surrounded me and then we drove away and some of them looked bewildered. Because we’re supposed to help. We live on the white ship and we have white skin and we’re supposed to be able to help.
Sometimes it feels like we’re making some kind of difference; our wards are full right now. Kids are bouncing off the ceilings and the VVF list reads like an awards ceremony. Dry. Dry. Dry. But it’s not enough. It will never be enough. This world we live in is so hurt and broken and I have no idea where to start in putting it back together.
I’m glad I’m not the one in charge of that.
Link to Ali here: http://alirae.net/blog/
This is a post for Positive Post Tuesday.