As you can see from the picture I posted Wednesday, our noma patient has had his second surgery, and now has a new nose and roof of his mouth. The surgery involved cutting the pedicle flap away from the nose and unrolling it back onto his scalp, and releasing his tongue from the roof of his mouth. One of my coworkers had the opportunity to observe the surgery, and she said that the surgeon, Dr. Parker, was impressed by how clean everything was. He said "there's obviously been some excellent nursing care going on in the ward." We all gave ourselves a little pat on the back for that. ;-) The patient is just as much to be praised for how well he's doing. What he's gone through the past 3 weeks would be difficult for anyone, with tube feedings, living off of soft foods and ensure supplements, having his nose suctioned every 4 hours, and multiple dressing changes and mouth washes. But he's endured it all with a smile on his face and a cheerful wave every morning for the nurses, never complaining, and being more than compliant with every treatment. I wasn't on shift when he returned from his second surgery, but everyone said that he came back wearing the biggest grin yet, and asking for a mirror.
Monday a group of about 30 new people arrived on the ship, so there have been lots of new faces to get used to. This happens every couple of months, and it's always a little disorienting at first. The ship feels like a different place for awhile, but soon everybody gets used to each other again and routines continue. I'm a preceptor on the ward now, so I've been helping to orient some of the new nurses. It's reminding me of how out of place I felt when I first arrived, and how strange everything first seemed. Now the way we do things in the hospital has come to feel more normal, and those thoughts of "we would never do it this way at home" don't cross my mind nearly so often.
About a month ago I joined a women's Bible study here on the ship, and we've been going through Beth Moore's Esther study. Watching the lesson every Monday night with the other ladies has been a highlight of every week, and the daily "homework" has helped me stay in the Word more consistently. I was really excited to be in a Bible study like this, because the past few years I haven't had the ability to, due to moving around so much and working crazy nursing schedules. Since most of the women in the study work shifts, they show the lesson Monday mornings as well as evenings so that everybody has the chance to come.
In my time off I've been trying to sign up for more of the "Mercy Ministries," like the women's prison and Missionaries of Charity. Yesterday I joined a group going to visit an orphanage outside the city, called Fatima Home. The orphanage is run by a local couple who started it for war orphans about 10 years ago. Some of those original children are still there, and more have joined them since. Living on a piece of land outside of Freetown, the children are provided meals, clothes, beds, and an education. Exams are expensive in Sierra Leone, and the Mercy Ships crew recently collected a donation large enough to pay each child's school fees for a year! When we pulled up to the home in our land rovers yesterday, it was raining but the kids were all standing outside anyway, jumping up and down eagerly and waving, big smiles on their faces. We all crowded into the living room inside the couple's house, to get out of the rain. While we took seats in the chairs and couches around the perimeter of the room, all the kids settled on the floor. Denise, the lady leading our team, said "don't be shy kids, you can sit in our laps!" The kids stayed where they were on the floor and just looked at her, obviously confused. Then the man who runs the orphanage translated what Denise said and within seconds the floor was cleared and every lap was filled. :-) We all had fun cuddling the munchkins while Denise taught a lesson on the fruits of the spirit, with the translator's help. Then we sang some songs and gave the kids coloring pages and crayons. The time passed all too quickly, and soon it was time to load up and make the bumpy hour-long drive back to the ship. Hopefully I'll be able to go back again in a couple of weeks.
The rest of my free time this week has been filled with walks on the dock, admiring the sunsets after dinner, reading books, movie nights with friends, and calling home to make sure my family's safe amid all the Texas wildfires. It's strange to think that my time here is more than half-way over; sometimes the next 3 months seem like forever, and other times I feel like they're going to just fly by. I've been battling a little more homesickness and burnt-out feelings than usual this week, so I'd appreciate your prayers that I would make the most of the time I have left. I want to relish every opportunity I have here in Sierra Leone, but I know that come December, I'll be more than ready to see Texas again.