T-minus-ten days til I pack up my bags, turn in my room key, and walk down the gangway of the Africa Mercy for the last time. Sometimes I accidentally call it the gangplank, not the gangway. But no worries, the captain hasn't made anyone walk the plank yet. I don't think we even have a plank.
I've been on night shift for the past 4 nights. Thursday was the last day of surgeries, so the patients left on the ward have all been here for awhile. That means there was hardly anything for me to do during my shifts. All my patients slept soundly, hardly needed anything, and after I did everyone's vital signs and assessments at 10:00, I had practically no work to do for the rest of the night. I did lots of reading, knitting, and looking at photos on the computer.
My dear friend and bunkmate Rachael said goodbye and headed back to England today. She and I have been through a lot together the past 5 months, and it was definitely a hard goodbye. After wiping the tears away, I went down to my room, saw her empty bed, and started crying again. Another good friend, Kari, went home today also. It's hard to see the crew dwindling away as people leave, and it made me wish that it was me going home today instead so I could just have it all over with. The flight from Freetown to Brussels only goes out on Mondays and Thursdays, and the rest of my Mondays and Thursdays here are going to be full of goodbyes. But that's the nature of Mercy Ships, and really it's the nature of life. Life is constantly changing, people come and go, transitions are made.
We're also saying goodbye to patients, as the hospital is closing for good this Friday. I wrote about that some the other day, regarding Aminata. There are other patients whose wounds haven't finished healing, or who need more surgeries, and it's hard to leave them before the job is done. But I know that even if the ship stayed and the hospital continued operating, the job would never be done. There will always be more people who need care, more stubborn wounds that won't close up, more complications. We just have to do what we can, the best that we can, and leave these people in God's hands. Some of the patients who need further surgeries in the future have been given instructions to travel to Guinea when the ship is there for a field service next year. Others have been referred to local hospitals that have agreed to partner with us in providing follow-up care. And still others simply will be given the best teaching we can, and we'll hope that they follow instructions at home and recover without complication. Please pray for these patients, that their wounds will heal quickly, that the ones experiencing pain would have relief, and that their home situations would be conducive to recovery.
Although part of me wishes that it had been me packing up and heading home today, another part of me knows that the next 10 days are going to fly by. Tomorrow I have the day off, and plan to spend it hiking with friends. Wednesday and Thursday will be my last 2 shifts on the ward, and Friday I'll be working a "cleaning" shift as we scrub down and pack up the hospital. After a weekend off, I'll be cleaning again on Monday and Tuesday. Next Wednesday will be spent completing the checklists and paperwork I have to do before leaving, and packing up and cleaning my room. Then Thursday I'll take the ferry across the harbor to the airport, and wave goodbye to Sierra Leone! It's a strange feeling. Lots of thoughts and feelings and emotions. But I've run out of words for now, so I'm heading for bed.