Sunday, March 30, 2014

Salt Water.



The president of Congo visited the ship last Sunday.  It’s a big deal, of course; every building between the ship and the port entrance was painted, the dirt swept away, the trucks and container walls hidden, and our dock was transformed from a parking lot for our fleet to a party tent for His Excellency’s 500 friends that came along with him. 

It was an honor that I got to be posted to Reception as a translator; I had the privilege of personally greeting nearly every visitor as we shuffled them upstairs.  The President of Mercy Ships, Don Stephens, was on hand to host His Excellency and once they were all onboard we headed up to the International Lounge for various speeches and thank-yous and honors.  There, the President was visibly moved, along with the rest of the attendees; a patient, who once was defined by her huge jaw tumor and is now beaming a huge radiant smile got to stand up in front of the crowd and personally thank her President for bringing Mercy Ships to save her life.  I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the place.

Salt water.

The anesthesia conference was this week, the first of this chunk of time in the red, and overall it went really well.  We trained 35 local healthcare providers, mostly anesthetists, on safe obstetric anesthesia and how to handle obstetric emergencies.  The maternal mortality rate in this country is higher than the sub-saharan African average; this training is critical to hopefully lowering that number.  The team that came from the UK to run the course was amazing, really fun people to be with, good teachers, and flexible, which is key to running any programs in Africa.  I got to make some new friends and learn some new facts and again be amazed at what I get to be a part of!

My job was to organize the logistics, the big two being venue and catering, then beyond that any logistical support I could offer to the team.  I thought I had both venue and catering completely under control a few weeks ago, and then on Tuesday the caterer was an hour and a half late and there was a problem with the venue… you had two things to take care of and you can’t even handle them! went through my head a few times, along with prickly tears of frustration over things that I can’t control still defining my worth.

Salt water.

It was a good week overall, with just minor issues, as there always are.  After apologizing to another friend for a snappy comment on Thursday, I knew I needed to run; I sent a short email to my favorite running buddy that said run b4 comm mtg? and I prayed like crazy she would say yes.  She did, and we headed out nearly as soon as the team returned for the evening… it was glorious.  Just two miles of shoes on pavement and lots of sweat and suddenly, all feels well again.  

Salt water.

Thursday night Don Stephens spoke at our community gathering, and showed a video highlighting some of our work here at Mercy Ships.  Wow.  I wish I could put it up here on my blog, but anyway… it was one of those videos that tells what we do, but I was haunted by the eyes in the photos of the children, the despair turned to hope and then to joy as we got to be a part of their stories, to teach them to walk on new legs and laugh with new faces.  What we do here is absolutely incredible. And I needed that reminder… as I find myself getting caught up in caterers being late and irritated by this that or the other thing, I need to remember how absolutely amazing it is that I get to do this, that I am so blessed beyond measure.  As the video ended, the tears came again, this time with gratitude, of what I get to be a part of.

Salt water.

Friday I got to experience the worst traffic I have ever experienced in Pointe Noire. I was driving the Anesthesia team to a local market and then to a hotel to just chill out for a few hours; a trip that would usually take fifteen minutes took me nearly two and a half hours on Friday.  I found myself thinking rather unkind things towards the drivers around me, towards the country without stop signs and the city without enforcement of any basic traffic regulations.  By the time I got to the end of the day I was desperate for my favorite Friday activity – ultimate Frisbee.  Regardless of what the previous week held, by Friday afternoon I am usually SO ready to get gloriously sweaty and dirty.   Friday night did not disappoint.

Salt water.

Later that evening, after dropping the Anesthesia team off at the airport, a friend and I cut away from the Mercy Ships vehicle convoy and went to La Pyramide, my absolute favorite restaurant in Pointe Noire. It’s right on the beach; it’s a chill, surfer’s paradise with palm trees and sand and a tiki bar atmosphere and a bartender that speaks English and has sweet hair. We found two comfy Adirondack chairs looking out towards the ocean; we sipped on glasses of tonic while decompressing from the week, chatting on all manner of things of life, work, community, dreams, the past and the future and the nature of God, occasionally lapsing into silence to breathe deep the salty air.  Detached words flew on the wisps of the wind, music in the background, with the crashing waves our constant companion… I love this place.

Salt water.

There’s no problem that can’t be made better with a little salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea… sometimes all three at the same time...  I love this place.  I love what I get to be a part of.  I love that emotions, even tears, can be holy.  I love that I live literally on the ocean. I love this amazing community, where I can always find a friend to run with or to cry with, where I can easily gaze at the sea, where love is spoken and tears are treasured and every single day I get to live and love this life to the full.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

In the red.

It's here. 

This chunk of time that I've been anxiously awaiting.  This few weeks blocked out on my field service calendar that are entirely in red, meaning busy, busy, busy, busy.  The three to four most demanding weeks of the field service that have been looming large and cause me to gulp and breathe deeply... confident in my ability to pull it off but also a bit nervous with what if I can't?

I can and will. (she whispers bravely to her somewhat doubting and timid heart)

Tomorrow a fantastic team of facilitators arrive from England to run the SAFE Obstetric Anesthesia course for about 35 local anesthetists and anesthesia nurses.  I've been working the last few weeks to confirm the venue and catering, gathering participant lists and sending invitations, gathering supplies and printing and laminating (thanks KJ for the help!!) and setting up tours and translators and vehicles and everything else that goes into putting on a high quality education program.  Hopefully, if I've done my job well, the facilitators will come in and have everything they need, will be able to teach and the participants will learn a lot and no one will have any idea what all happens in the background.

It'll be a full and hopefully very fun week...  I'm excited to be a part of it!

Then, the following week I get the privilege of leading a team of 8 up to Dolisie to do some team training in the operating room!  We'll be covering OR crises, the Safe Surgery Saves Lives checklist, and infection control, among other things.  We've never tried a direct team approach like this so I'm super excited to see how it works! And the team I get to work with is awesome, the hospital in Dolisie is really nice, and it's just fun to get away from the port for a bit!

We return on Friday and then on Sunday I will be winging my way to Brazzaville, where I'm assisting with two different conferences...

On that Monday the eye surgery training team from Rotary International will start training in the largest hospital in Congo.  Eye surgeons and nurses don't have a lot (if any) opportunity for continued training in their fields here, so it's really exciting for them to get this type of small group hands on training.

Then the next day, Tuesday and Wednesday of that week, we're hosting a Lifebox training - if you've never heard of Lifebox, click on the name and it'll take you to their website.  Basically, this Safe Surgery Saves Lives checklist is a proven way to decrease mortality in the Operating Room.  The only piece of this checklist that costs any money is the pulse-oximeter - so Lifebox's mission statement is to put a pulse oximeter in every operating room in the world.  Last spring Mercy Ships helped to host an anesthesia conference in Brazzaville (before I was involved with education) and a needs assessment was done for all participants - anyone who indicated they had a need for pulse oximeters will be invited back to participate in this training, where the trainer from Lifebox will teach on the checklist along with how to properly use and care for the pulse oximeter, and then they will receive the donated Lifeboxes (pulse oximeters).  It's so cool that something that small can really potentially have a huge impact on surgery in Africa!

So what's my job?  Make all of that happen from a logistical standpoint, so the trainers can just come in and do their thing.

In and amongst those four big things, we also have three mentoring programs starting up - a local anesthesia provider will be working one-on-one with our anesthesia team here on the ship, a local nurse will be working one-on-one with our rehab team, and our sterilizing technician trainer will be heading out to start a new three-week session with a new group of trainees in the local hospitals.  And it's part of my job to make those things happen in terms of paperwork, getting the participants legally and medically cleared to work here, etc.

Plus I'm working on project plans and prep for the next field service in Guinea, project reports for the end of this field service in Congo...I oversee the handing over of any patients that still need follow up care after we sail away to local physicians, making sure those physicians and nurses are properly trained and supplies are given...  We also have several different VIP guests coming on board over the next month that I'll be doing various things with, and trying to figure out my summer plans while the ship is packing up

So needless to say I'm kinda busy right now... but the good news is, I love my job and I love the people I get to work with!  I'm honored I get to be a part of this and excited (and yes a wee bit nervous) to see how the next three weeks pan out!

If you're the praying type, pray that all goes well and that joy is found in every day, every moment, every interaction, and every teaching.  Pray that details will be sorted out and grace will be abundant and peace would rule and reign in all we are and will be.

Thanks friends, I couldn't do this without you. 

Krissy

p.s. I've put a few new tabs up on the top of this blog... most notably a wish list, in case you're wondering what you could send me that would bless me!! have at it! :)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Keeping on.

Life keeps on keeping on, as it thankfully does.  Sometimes it seems to fly by, other times it seems to move ever so slowly, but ultimately, it keeps on... which is a wonderful thing. 


It isn't the length of life, but the depth. ~Emerson


My heart momma and dear friend Debbie's memorial service was yesterday.  As I look back over the story that is my life I see lots and lots of awesome people that have come and gone, in and out and sometimes back in and sometimes never out, but there are just a few that I know this - I am the woman that I am today because of their investment in me, my heart, my life, and my story. 

Debbie was one of those amazing shining lights and I will forever be grateful for her love, wisdom, encouragement, and passion for the things that are most important.  Her life wasn't long but it was deep; its richness was poured out on hundreds and thousands of hearts and I know that her memorial yesterday wasn't one of sadness but of joy and worship and celebration of life. 

So I celebrated life, too - I went to the beach with a landie full of ladies and we laughed and talked and walked and splashed and watched the little crabs scurry around when we were still and run away at the first sign of movement.  It was a sweet day of beautiful blue skies, just the perfect amount of wind, and one that reminded me that there is something wonderful about the mix of sweat, sand, sunscreen, and salt in your hair as you climb up the gangway, slightly toasted around the edges, and contentedly fall into bed at the end of the day. 
 

What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is... if I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know. ~Saint Augustine
 

Somehow we're already talking about the end of the field service here in Congo; pack up, sailing, summer plans, who is coming back for the next field service in Guinea and who is stepping into the next different thing that God has for them.   It seems it was just yesterday we were all hyped up about this brand new country in a brand new region and my brand new job and all that came with being surrounded entirely by brand new things.  I’ve been with Mercy Ships nearly two years now, and I know my time here has only just begun.  It’s been a hard season, a learning season, but overall a good season and I’m looking forward to a year of growth; I already know my way around Guinea, and I’m learning my way around my not-so-new job, so it can only get easier, right? One can hope! 

I’m planning various summer adventures; starting out with a month in an intensive language course and host family in France, followed by visits with various other European friends.  I never knew, until starting to plan this summer, how ridiculously cheap it is to fly around Europe; it’s probably a good thing that I don’t live there or I wouldn’t ever get anything done for the travelling and adventuring!   I’m very much looking forward to the time, as well as looking forward already to our next field service in Guinea.
 

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough. ~Einstein
 

This is the third country I’ve served in at the end of the field service; I was there for the final push in Sierra Leone in 2011 and Guinea in 2013.  There’s all this hype and excitement about the end and everything that goes into packing up and sailing away; soon they’ll be saying how many days until we sail at the beginning of every single meeting.  I appreciate this to some extent, but at the same time, I don’t want to be so focused on the next thing that I miss out on what is happening here and now.  Amazing things, every single day, if we were to write them down there wouldn’t be enough space in all of Congo for the pages that would be written.  I love looking out my window and seeing our littlest plastics patients giggling and laughing their way through their physical therapy; I love serving coffee on Sunday mornings to an appreciative crew; I love hearing the songs and the joy coming from the wards of patients in various stages of healing. What we get to do here is incredible, and I am so very grateful to be a part of it. 

Life keeps on, through grief and joy and everything in between.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Link love

Some great sites to check out!

What is a dress ceremony? :   http://mercyshipscanada.com/2014/03/11/what-is-a-dress-ceremony/

It's a girl! The Mercy Ships family is growing! : http://clarkemurphy.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/its-a-girl/

Choosing a cape, not a cardigan: http://goingtothesea.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/choose-a-cape-not-a-cardigan/

And so I shamelessly plug other peoples' blogs because I haven't found the time to write my own.  I've got a lot of things brewing, a super busy season upon me, and summer shenanigans to plan.  Life is good, my friends.  Oh, so very good. 

Love to all - Krissy

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Solid Rock.

I will call upon your name, and keep my eyes above the waves… when oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace, for I am yours, and you are mine. ~Oceans, Hillsong United

It’s been a week.  It started off already emotionally fragile, with difficult stuff happening back with my heart family in Seattle.  I traveled for two and a half days to return to my ship home across nine time zones, so jet lag was significant.  I had a double ear infection and sinus infection.  I’m fairly certain I have an intestinal parasite.  I had a whole lot going on at work. I had some tough conversations with people.  I didn’t sleep well and cried easily.  I panicked over something silly and was blown and tossed around in the winds of people’s opinions, actions, and convictions.

Awesome. 

I was chatting with God while running last night and this happened –

Me:  God… am I going to make it?

God:  Well, my child… whether you do, or whether you don’t… it’s entirely up to you.

Ooofh.

We all have tough times, days, weeks, seasons… no one will argue that.  However… how I respond to them? it's entirely up to me. 

On Christ the solid rock I stand… all other ground is sinking sand. ~ My hope is built on nothing less, Edward Mote

So what do we do with this? What do we do when it feels like there is no longer anything solid under our feet? 

We quit dwelling on the crap and start dwelling on the King.

I quit allowing myself to be distracted by this that and the other thing and focus on that which is eternal.  I quit focusing on how things feel and instead focus on how things really are.   

There are a few things that always help in emotionally unstable times…

1.       Exercise
2.       Natural beauty
3.       Heart connection  

Know what actually happens when I’m in a funk? I am too lazy/too tired to run, it’s far too much work to go off the ship, and I sequester myself in my cabin and don’t interact with anyone.  What needs to happen?  I need to go for a run, go to the beach, talk to a dear heart sister who can help remind me of who I really am and who God really created me to be… not who I feel like in the moment.

Know why these always work?  Because God is deep in each one of them.  Physical exercise releases all kinds of good things in the body, it’s how we were created.  Natural beauty is a healing balm to the soul – God created nature NOT to be primarily functional but to be primarily beautiful!  We need natural beauty like the air we breathe.  And we need people, heart sisters, connections in our lives who can help us to stop dwelling on the crap and start dwelling on the King.  I’ve been blessed with many such lovely souls in my life and I’m so grateful.

God reminded me he has also called me to greatness… and whether or not that comes to pass is entirely up to me.  God has called all of us to this.  It looks different for each of us but ultimately, it is our choice whether or not we ever get there.

Welcome to your new week… what you do with it, what it is built on, where you are at the end of it – it’s entirely up to you.  Choose wisely, dear one.

It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand. ~Madeleine L’Engle