Category Archives: Patient Stories

The Journey of Jordan

I can’t say that this is a great piece of journalism. It’s pretty awful in that respect, actually. Below is a timeline of one particular patient that was dear to me this year. There are lots of patients I’ve loved, but I wanted to pick one and collect little details along the way to create a more cohesive story for you. Obviously, I’m here living it. So I see the “whole story” all the time, but for some of you the pictures and moments I share about patients are simply snapshots. So here is the Journey of Jordan, through my eyes. (**Most sections in quotes are straight from my journal.)

8 November
“Syvano is going to surgery today and I get to watch. His left wrist is severly contracted–knuckles to forearm. He was so playful last night.”

8 November (the accounts of 7 November)
“I was charge nurse on evening shift when he was admitted. I gave him and Mama a big, warm welcome and he took the bait.

He, Maeva and Boris quickly made friends and began playing together. First Hungry Hippo (the loudest, most obnoxious game ever), then Jenga. Well at first just stacking up the blocks until I taught him how to actually play. One of the first things I did (even before all that) was give him a yellow, smiley-face balloon, and he loved it.

Before bed as we were shutting off all the lights, I told him that if it was alright I was going to watch his surgery and “make sure the doctors do a good job.” He smirked. Then I told him “and Jesus will be watching your surgery too. He will protect you.” His face got serious. I asked quietly, “Do you believe in Jesus?” “Oui,” he said with a huge smile. “Well, Jesus loves you and he will protect you. You can rest and sleep soundly tonight. You have nothing to worry about.” We high-fived and I wished him goodnight.”

Nurse Michelle Scalley with Maeva and Boris

8 November
“This morning I went to visit just as the 30 minute call came to prepare him for surgery. He was still smiling and eager! :)”

Gosh, watching his surgery this day was incredible. Plastic surgeons basically do professional “arts and crafts.” A fat flap from here, a thin piece of skin there and Voila! Now his fingers are straight and his wrist is in a neutral position. Surgery fills me with awe. Incredible.

9 November
“Visited Syvano this afternoon and Desré was doing some range of motion with his fingers. I could see he was in pain, but when I approached and waved he gave his big smile again. I held his other hand while Des continued. He was such a champ!”

Also, this is the day I found out he goes by “Jordan”. Des is so good at finding that out instead of just reading the “first” name on their ID card.

(Below is Mufi, Des, Mama, BJ and Jordan)

Physical therapist, Desre Bates, and academy student, Brandon Barki, say goodbye to their patient and friend on the dock as he leaves on his long journey home.

Des is a therapist who specializes in hand therapy. Since Jordan had become accustomed to his wrist being bent completely backwards, he would need quite a lot of rehab to gain strength in a hand that had essentially been out of use. Also, Jordan’s scar tissue from his original injury had all but decimated the flexor tendons on the back of his hand. So he would never achieve full movement again, but our therapists are here to make sure that they gain as much function as possible!

28 November
I took out all 5 of Jordan’s K-wires today during his dressing change. He was, and still is, so brave!

This is not Jordan’s xray. This is just an example of K-wires. We do not put patients under anesthesia to remove these–just some extra pain meds for him and elbow grease for me.

1 December
Jordan has such a personality. He has also developed a friendship with Tressor (the patient below with the pink balloon), in addition to everyone else that loves him. Communications kind of wishes that they had followed him. He might not have had a sparkling personality when we first met him, but now he is so social and well integrated into life on the wards. He has light in his eyes.

Aisha Wainwright with plastic patients including Maeva, Tresor and Jordan.
Aisha Wainwright with plastic patients including Maeva, Tresor and Jordan

6 December
Almost a month after surgery, Jordan was discharged to the HOPE center. The HOPE center is our “hospital outpatient extension”–a place for patients to stay while they still need to come back regularly for follow-up appointments (ie: dressings and rehab).


14 December
I saw Jordan briefly at the HOPE center during the Ponseti (Clubbed-Feet) clinic celebration I attended. His eyes lit up when he saw me! I know I’m not the only one, but it’s nice to be remembered.

2 January
Jordan came into the ship for a dressing change on a busy day when outpatients* needed help. Today, I let him have one of his favorite little trinkets that we used to play with in the ward hallways–a blue popper! Also, I told him that my Dad was coming to the ship for a visit.
*Typically, after discharge from the hospital, patients will have their  rehab and dressing needs met on the dock in our tents instead of coming on board each time. I am part of the in-patient dressings team. So our first priority is the patients on the ship and then we will do some of the outpatients dressings afterwards if needed.


10 January
My Dad arrived to the ship the night before, so I’m giving him a tour. While we were on an upper deck, I peered down and saw Jordan and Tressor on the dock waiting for their rehab/outpatients appointments. I had told Jordan the week before that my Dad was coming. While Dad and I were walking down the gangway, the boys spotted me and started waving. “Tante Kirsten!” Then all of a sudden Jordan looked to Dad coming down after me and his eyes went wide, “Tante…Papa?” I could not believe he had made the connection while we were still at a distance coming down the gangway. “Oui!” I exclaimed. I think my heart about burst in that moment. My two loves were colliding. Not specifically Jordan and my Dad, but rather my love for Mercy Ships and my love for home. It was probably one of the most memorable moments of my time in Cameroon so far.

18 January
Jordan danced with me and Dad at the HOPE center during Mercy Ministries today. Dad got to participate in a dramatic telling of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof by his friends and healed by Jesus.


6 February
I was on my way to the HOPE center hoping to visit with Jordan, but he happened to be on the dock waiting for a physical therapy appointment. I was so happy to see him though. I thought he had gone home, and I was so sad that I didn’t get a chance to give a last goodbye. His wounds are 100% healed. Now to get those muscles stronger!

16 February
Jordan finally was able to go home today. There are a lot of goodbyes on this ship. Not just with crew who leave, but also with patients and their caregivers. However limited, I know that our connection was one I treasured.

As I hugged and kissed his Mama goodbye, she held me and said (through translation) “thank you. Thank you for everything you have done.” So many of us on the ship connected with Jordan and his Mama. What was done in His life was testament to the value of a functioning “body of Christ.” When we each play our part, God’s work is done. We are a team.

I am so grateful for each person who played a role in Jordan’s healing and rehabilitation. I am so grateful that I got to join in. I am so grateful to all those who have supported me. I do not like goodbyes, but I am grateful for this one.


Ward nurse, Victoria Martin, and Wound Care nurse, Kirsten Murphy, say goodbye to Jordan and him mom on the dock.

God, I bless Jordan and his family on this journey through life. I pray that your power would be a mighty testimony when they return home. And I ask that we will have a heavenly reunion one day.

 

 

 

The Significance of One

1 February 2018

Each 10-month field service in a country, our surgical schedule on Mercy Ships is determined by:
1) The assessed surgical needs of the country
2) The availability of surgeons for each specialty

Of course, some of the preparation is still a leap of faith, but Mercy Ships tries to plan out what they can.

Dr. Tertius Venter is a plastic surgeon who has been coming to do surgeries since BEFORE the Africa Mercy embarked in 2007. In the years I have served, he has completed two “blocks” of surgeries in each field service. Although he could crank them all out consecutively, many of his surgeries rely on our access to physical and occupational therapy to rehabilitate our patients. They would simply be overrun if he did not have a break in his surgical schedule each field service. He also does surgery in some African country hospitals. There, he says, “I will not do any burn-contracture related surgery. If there are no PTs and OTs to follow up, there is no point.” This fact makes the care we give on the Africa Mercy very special as Tertius performs many burn contracture released on the ship.

I have seen, now, hundreds of patients affected by severe burn contractures. Sometimes, the need seems far too great. When I sat through the scheduling process last fall and watched each patient’s screening form be assigned to a surgical slot, my heart sunk as I saw the forms that remained.

Last night Doctor Tertius taught a medical in-service about flaps and grafts (aka surgical arts and crafts) that he uses in his surgeries. Some of which have been invented by Mercy Ships surgeons (because first-world text books do not deal with such advanced surgical problems). At the end of his talk, he reminded us that our main objective is to see each patient’s value and love them. We must do the very best we can for each one.

Luke 15 “Then Jesus told them this parable:…”
The Parable of the Lost Sheep:
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

The Parable of the Lost Coin:
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

The Parable of the Lost Son:
A son disrespects his father and lives unrighteously. However, when he returns, the father spares no expense in celebrating. When the faithful son became angry at the extravagance, the father replied:
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

You know what the conclusion of each of these stories is? “______ calls his/her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost _____”

So today, I rejoice over the one. I rejoice over the one who gets to encounter the love on this ship. The one who had no hope. The one who gets to see Jesus at work in our midst. The one who got surgery–even if it meant several others could not.

The more I experience this mission, the more I am convinced that “light” and “dark” emotions can coexist. I could block out the memory of patients we could not help, but that would be dishonest. Now that I have seen, I cannot become blind again. Instead, I choose to rejoice in the one we helped, and I choose to (especially) pray for the one we could not.


What/who is “the one” in your life that you need to take action for?

A song that has inspired me is Albertine by Brooke Fraser
Here is the story behind the song: The Story of Albertine


Feeling pretty good about my social media break at the moment. Day one and I was already motivated to write! (Even though I just posted a blog yesterday.) So that’s cool. Now to finish some of the books I’ve been reading…

I Will Change Their Shame Into Praise

Today, I’m going to share a bit from my journal. I think I may start doing a bit more of that. This particular entry was written after attending church with my patients this past Sunday. The story we learned about was the story of the ten lepers Jesus healed from Luke 17. Here is an excerpt to bring you up to speed:

“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

The typical format of a service like this is for the story to be told in depth by one of our chaplains. Then we tell it to each other. Then the chaplain talks over it again bit by bit while asking us open ended questions that allow us to draw meaning from the passage. Usually she also asks if anyone has experienced anything similar to the story–and almost without fail, someone stands and shares.

This day however, three patients whose wounds I have dressed, shared their testimonies at the beginning of the service and gave praise to God for their healing. Another also shared her testimony at the end.

Here is my journal entry from immediately after the service concluded. I couldn’t get to my cabin fast enough. The tears just started coming.

28 January 2018

After Rose (a patient who previously had a neurofibroma tumor on her face) shared her testimony, she sang this (in French):
“He sees you,
He knows,
If you confide/trust in Him,
He will see you through.”

It was off-pitch and soft, but seeing her closed eyes and hearing her shaking voice give glory to her God was far too beautiful to describe.

Story today: 10 lepers healed in Luke
Exit song: “I Know Who I Am”

Overcome w/ emotion today. When I read through Jesus’ miracles, I don’t really identify with being sick or lame or outcast. But when I listen to a story of Jesus healing people while in the presence of my patients I cannot help but be overwhelmed.

I hear their grateful testimonies (4 today) and am simultaneously overcome with sadness and joy. Grief over their suffering & joy that God is still healing the sick & restoring the outcasts into their communities today.

What I didn’t write about in my entry was the fourth and final testimony. A mama stood after the story was told and shared about her experience of being outcast. When her baby was born, her in-laws said “we don’t know what kind of baby this is but it is not of our family. Get it out of here. Take care of it (unclear what that meant exactly).” Now, after surgery, she is confident that her child will be accepted and she will not have to hide.

If anyone ever asked me, “Kirsten, do you have any experiences similar to being a leper?” It would be a quick “no.” For this reason, I think I  do not easily grasp the depth of Christ’s ministry. He wasn’t just healing physical infirmities.
He was restoring.
He was giving people their lives back.

This is the work he is still doing through us.
This is this work we must do.

And I will save the lame
    and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
    and renown in all the earth.
Zephaniah 3:19

Maeva before surgery to help with burn contractures on her left leg and hand.

Maeva, plastics patient, at the HOPE Center in a pretty pink dress and shoes that she couldn’t wear before.

She is fierce. Meet Marie Therese

19 October 2017
Douala, Cameroon

During the last week of orthopedic surgeries this year, I met an 11-year-old patient whose spirit inspired me. Her name is Marie Therese. From the moment her plaster cast was reinforced with fiberglass and she was allowed out of bed, she has shown her grit and determination. Even in bed, she does her leg exercises without being told and rarely complains.

Watching her hoist her two long-leg, heavy casts out of bed–gosh, you should have seen it. Just picture a seesaw made out of concrete, but with the fulcrum at one end of the plank instead of the middle. Now picture those concrete seesaw planks are your legs.
So, when I say she hoisted her legs out of bed, I really mean it. Out of bed…into the bathroom… up and down the hallway…back into bed…over and over again.

Her upper body strength was a big contributor of course–her defined triceps were something to be admired–but I just felt that there was something more to it. There was something unbreakable in her spirit.

I asked her as she took yet another walk that day, “What is the first thing you’re going to do when you get these casts off?” She replied, “Walk straight into school!”
“That’s pretty cool,” I thought, “maybe she has never been to school.” After some questioning by a few of the day crew (our translators), they found out that she had already completed grade six and would soon be able to take her exam to progress from primary school to “pre-secondary” school. A significant accomplishment judging from the expressions on their faces.

They were impressed.
I was astounded.

Many children drop out when the bullying starts regarding their bent legs. Marie Therese had persisted in her studies–not knowing if her physical situation would ever change. What a lesson in faith for all of us!

And now that her circumstance has changed, she isn’t sitting back on her haunches. She is pursuing her goals and dreams full force–this time, on straight legs. Indeed, nothing can hold her back.

She is my hero.


She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. Proverbs 31:17


Ward nurse Kirsten Murphy with one of her patients

Meet Ulrich

16 September 2017
Douala, Cameroon

Entry from my journal:

“Finally worked a bit more this past week! It was so great to interact with patients more. (Cleaning gets old pretty fast.) I was Ulrich’s nurse yesterday. I sat next to his bed on a stool as I charted, and he saw his preop medical photos. He asked if he could take them when he goes home… this boy, twelve years old hasn’t even taken his first steps on straight legs yet and he is already envisioning a future where he will need photos to remind him of his crooked-legged past.
What faith.
And what a blessing to be able to walk through this process with him. I told him that I was happy to see the work God was doing in his legs, and I told him that I hoped that w/ this new healing he would serve God with his new legs. His face got serious and he gave a small nod. God I pray that you bring healing and flexion/function that we didn’t think was possible. Amen.”

Do you remember Ulrich?! I posted about him on my Instagram story a couple times asking for prayers. His case was severe and his outcome was hard to predict because we simply do not see untreated orthopedic abnormalities like this back home.
•••
His knees had been dislocated since birth. This would have been a simple fix in infancy, but now his body had grown to the size of a young man. It never had to come to this.
•••
Despite all that, I am thrilled to report that through multiple surgeries and LOTS of rehab, he can walk on his own two feet. He can stand tall.
•••

•••
The first time he stood on his newly straight legs, physical therapist Robyn Porep said, “he reached his hands up to see if he could touch the ceiling.” And the first time he walked, it was straight into his mother’s embrace. The first time he had been able to hug her standing tall.
•••

•••
Ulrich even gave his old wooden walking sticks to Dr. Frank Haydon (pictured) as a gift. He wouldn’t need them anymore.

Do you want to be a part of this adventure? Sponsor an orthopedic surgery here: The Lame Walk

“Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” Matthew 11:4-6

This is the mission of Jesus: reconciliation.
Turning around the consequences of a broken world. On earth as it is in heaven.

Dr. James Lau and Frank Haydon, Orthopedic Surgeons, performing and operation.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

Cleft Lip No Longer

24 October, 2017
Douala, Cameroon

It was a long, quiet night shift on B-ward.

Only two pre-op patients to take care of. No pain issues. All maxillofacial patients sleeping. Just a few VVF (vesico-vaginal fistula) ladies to check on…

…until about 5am when there was a stir in the stillness. One of our “hotel” patients (no longer need nursing care), 5-month-old baby boy Issa, woke up and would not fall back asleep. He had had his cleft lip repaired just days before. He was not hungry. He was not cranky. He just did NOT want Mama Issa to sleep. She approached me with baby Issa and asked–hurriedly in French–if I would hold him while she “freshened up.”

Well, that was an easy yes!
I did not want to keep anyone awake in the ward, so I took to the ward hallway with bright-eyed Issa and started singing.

First, “Hills and Valleys”…
then “Fullness”…
“O Come to the Altar”…

Song after song, he still did not seem even a bit drowsy. My night shift brain was running out of inspiration…

…then I thought of a song I had sung on the worship team with Manda weeks before. “God of Angel Armies.”

This time, I sang directly to baby Issa with some modified lyrics:

“Nothing formed against YOU shall stand,
HE holds the whole world in HIS hands//
I’m holding on to THESE promises,
He is faithful, He is faithful…”

This time, as I sang, I was looking straight into his eyes and declaring these words over his life. He looked back at me–eyes locked with mine.

And just like that, Issa closed his eyes and slept soundly.


It occurred to me as I was rocking baby Issa that he would never know what it is like to grow up with a cleft lip. It will never be the cause of bullying, avoidance of school, trouble getting work or difficulty marrying. He may struggle in this life, but his cleft lip will not be the cause of it. What a beautiful thing it is to give a gift like that. Thank you to each and every supporter of Mercy Ships (click to give.)

“He is faithful, he is faithful…”


Psalm 108

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth. 


Side note: the featured photo is not Baby Issa. This is another cleft lip baby that we helped in Madagascar. If I do come across an official photo of baby Issa, I will post it here!

☀️ Meet Fadimatou ☀️

October 4th, 2017
Douala, Cameroon

‎In the wake the tragedy in Las Vegas, here’s a little sunshine for you! Meet Fadimatou:


November 5, 2017
Douala, Cameroon

“Nothing is more beautiful than a face that has struggled through tears.”

I originally posted the below photos following the massacre in Las Vegas. Today, with a few thoughts about inner beauty.

Cleft lip patient Fadimatou at the surgeon screening on the dock
Cleft lip patient Fadimatou at the surgeon screening on the dock
Cleft lip patient Fadimatou after surgery to repair her cleft lip
Cleft lip patient Fadimatou after
Cleft lip patient Fadimatou after

How many of us can say that our countenance displays joy like this when we can’t seem to shake the circumstance/struggle that has followed us our whole life?

She has suffered from a cleft lip her whole life, and yet… I get the feeling she has a confidence that does not depend on anything external. Just look at that smile.

‎This is the most ageless of beauty.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.” 1 Peter 3

For some reason, the phrase “put their hope in God” was not a phrase that I remember associated with this type of beauty. Righteousness–yes. But hope? This made me want to dig a little deeper. Maybe there is something else to be learned here. I get to give hope to those without access to safe, effective surgery. Or at least that’s how the newsletter tagline would go. What if hope was already alive in their hearts? What if I my service is only a materialization of that hope? Maybe these BEAUTIful, HOPEful people can teach me something.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 1 Timothy 6

If hope is an asset, how are you investing yours?

Meet Ernest

Ernest, Maxillofacial patient, before surgery,
Ernest, Maxillofacial patient, before surgery with wrap around face.
Ernest, Maxillofacial patient, before surgery with wrap around face.

Meet Ernest, the first Cameroonian patient I took care of on the ship. It was the week before surgery when our team found his blood count to be quite low—and his tumor actively bleeding. He was admitted into our still empty hospital wards given a blood transfusion and monitored.
•••
And that’s where I entered his story. We played a few rounds of Connect Four before bed, I changed the gauze over the open part of his tumor, and then I watched over him while he peacefully slept.
•••
He probably won’t remember his one-time night shift nurse, but I’ll remember him. I’ll remember his persistence. I’ll remember his new-found hope. And I’ll remember the huge grin that spread across his face when he came to visit the orthopedic ward sometime after his surgery, and I said “Wow, look at you! So handsome Ernest!” And in his eyes you could see… he believed it, gosh darn it.
He believed it.
•••
#MercyShips #mercyshipsnurse #allthefeels #coffeewithkirsten #transformationtuesday #itstuesdaysomewhere #hopeandhealing #globalhealth

Ernest in the ward on his first day after surgery doing lip exercises
Ernest in the ward on his first day after surgery looking into the mirror
Ernest, maxillofacial patient, looks at his face for the first time after having his tumor removed.
Ernest, maxillofacial patient, looks at his face for the first time after having his tumor removed.

 

The Bread of Life: In a Thematic Format

Bread.
Everybody loves it. We love it so much that we have made all sorts of variations on it. Pizza, bruschetta, paninis, sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, pretzels…I could go on.
Nutrition.
That word it gives many pause. “You’re gonna make me eat gross stuff aren’t you? I’ll start my diet after the holidays. I love my sweets, Kirsten! And Grandma only makes this pie once a year.” Often, in a developed country, we think of good nutrition in the sense of restriction especially.
Skin.
In it’s normal state, skin is pretty…normal. Not much to say about it other than guys (ok, and girls) like to see it and sometimes it’s different colors. Below is a simple non-technical explanation of what happens when it is damaged. (Sorry if it bores you, but I LOVE this stuff!)
“What’s the largest organ in your body? As a kid that might have gotten you; it’s your skin, which serves as a layer of protection between your inner tissues and the outside world.Because of its protective function, your skin must have an action plan for healing itself when you get hurt, no matter if it’s scratched, bruised, or wounded (or burned). The body’s self-healing properties are fascinatingly harmonious and rather beautiful (I agree). Various cells and mechanisms work together as though forming a puzzle (Gah! Love puzzles.), rebuilding your layers of skin.When the top layer — the epidermis — is broken by a light scratch, not much occurs. You might see some dead skin cells flake off. But when something cuts into the deeper, next layer — called the dermis — you’ll see blood, and your body triggers a four-stage process of healing itself. The skin has to respond to two major threats at first: the loss of blood, and the lack of a physical barrier (the epidermis) between your innards and the outer world. An open cut is an open doorway to bacteria and other pathogens, far more vulnerable to infection, so the body must act quickly to regenerate the epidermis.”
Here is the source of this quote and the video:
Basics of Simple Wound Healing

Bread.
To state it in simple terms, bread is cheap calories. Bread is easily broken down by the body into a sugar–which is why it so quickly leaves our stomach feeling empty while actually increasing our waistline. Bread is a starch. Starch around the world is cheap financially and cheap nutritionally. The body breaks it down and uses it up pretty fast.

Nutrition.
This is why we need to have  a diverse diet. We needs vitamins from fruit. Fiber (and more vitamins) from vegetables. Protein and fats from eggs, dairy, beans, and meats.

Skin.
“Good nutritional status is essential for wound healing to take place. Ignoring nutritional status may compromise the patient’s ability to heal and subsequently prolong the stages of wound healing. Glucose provides the body with its power source for wound healing and this give energy for angiogenesis and the deposition of new tissue. Therefore, it is vital that the body receives adequate amounts of glucose to provide additional energy for wound healing. Fatty acids are essential for cell structure and have an important role in the inflammatory process. Wound healing is dependent on good nutrition and the presence of suitable polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet. Protein deficiency has been demonstrated to contribute to poor healing rates with reduced collagen formation and wound dehiscence. High exudate loss can result in a deficit of as much as 100g of protein in one day. This subsequently needs to be replaced with a high protein diet. Vitamins are also important in wound healing. Vitamin C deficiency contributes to fragile granulation tissue.” Research source

Bread.
“Jesus teaches us to pray that God would give us daily bread (Matthew 6:11). Obviously Jesus was not telling His disciples to pray only for bread. But bread was a staple in the diet of the Jews, and had been so for many years. Furthermore, bread was a powerful symbol of God’s provision for His people in the Old Testament. We remember how God cared for the Israelites when they were in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. Life in the wilderness was hard, and soon the people began to complain that it would be better to be back in Egypt, where they had wonderful food to eat. In response to these complaints, God promised to “rain bread from heaven” (Ex. 16:4). The next morning, when the dew lifted, there remained behind on the ground, [Manna] “a small round substance, as fine as frost… . It was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (vv. 14, 31). When God miraculously fed His people from heaven, he did so by giving them bread.” Source

Nutrition.
Since good nutrition is essential for skin to heal, we automatically start a certain category of our plastic surgery patients on the ship’s nutritional protocol as soon as we approve them for surgery and give them a date. One of our protein products, believe it or not, is named MANA.

Skin.
On a Monday in late October, I and the rest of the dressings team were discouraged by the [lack] of progress in the healing of several of our patients. We had made sure they were on the appropriate nutrition protocol. We had identified infections and treated them as best as we knew how. We were “at our extremity” as Rees Howells would say. At the end of our rope and discouraged, we spent time praying for the patients who were struggling. One of them was Jonas. Not only was the majority of his skin graft not taking, he also appeared to be depressed and downcast. He rarely said a word, laid in his bed all day, and NEVER smiled.

Bread.
“After the Korean War ended, South Korea was left with a large number of children who had been orphaned by the war. We’ve seen the same thing in the Vietnam conflict, in Bosnia, and in other places. In the case of Korea, relief agencies came in to deal with all the problems that arose in connection with having so many orphan children. One of the people involved in this relief effort told me about a problem they encountered with the children who were in the orphanages. Even though the children had three meals a day provided for them, they were restless and anxious at night and had difficulty sleeping. As they talked to the children, they soon discovered that the children had great anxiety about whether they would have food the next day. To help resolve this problem, the relief workers in one particular orphanage decided that each night when the children were put to bed, the nurses there would place a single piece of bread in each child’s hand. The bread wasn’t intended to be eaten; it was simply intended to be held by the children as they went to sleep. It was a “security blanket” for them, reminding them that there would be provision for their daily needs. Sure enough, the bread calmed the children’s anxieties and helped them sleep. Likewise, we take comfort in knowing that our physical needs are met, that we have food, or “bread,” for our needs.

This petition of the Lord’s Prayer, then, teaches us to come to God in a spirit of humble dependence, asking Him to provide what we need and to sustain us from day to day. We are not given license to ask for great riches, but we are encouraged to make our needs known to Him, trusting that He will provide.” Source

Nutrition.
The surprisingly dramatic role of nutrition in mental health | Julia Rucklidge | TEDxChristchurch

Skin.
While praying for our patients, I had specifically remembered (thanks Holy Spirit) the scripture in which Jesus calls himself “the bread of life.” I felt very strongly that our patient Jonas needed to know. So later that week I finally worked up the courage, while doing his dressing change (literally right in the middle of it), to ask Hannah to read (he spoke pretty decent English)  from John 6. Below is the scripture shared with Jonas:  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:33-35
When Hannah finished, I added that I believed that God would supply all He needed. I believed that God would fill in every nutritional gap that was inhibiting his wounds from healing. He nodded, but didn’t want us to read anymore. I wasn’t sure if the scripture had fallen flat or lacked relevance completely…

Bread.
“If we find that God’s hand seems to be invisible to us and that we cannot discern His providential intrusion into our lives, that may be due partly to the way we pray. We have a tendency to pray in general. When we pray in general, the only way we will see the hand of God’s providence is in general. As we enter into prayer, this conversation and communion with God, and put our petitions before Him, pouring out our souls and our needs specifically, we see specific answers to our prayers. Our Father has invited us to go to Him and ask Him for our daily bread. He will not fail to provide it.”

 

Nutrition. Skin. Bread.
Well, soon after we prayed specifically together for the healing of several of our patients we started to see results. Within a week, Jonas’ wounds had turned a corner and his mood was uncharacteristically positive. He was smiling, shaking hands in the corridor outside the hospital, and just overall lighter in countenance! I really believe that what God did was some kind of miraculous nutritional deposit inside Jonas. His skin began to heal so drastically and his demeanor changed so suddenly we could hardly contain ourselves. When we acknowledged that we could do nothing else, God had intervened.

Journal entry 9 Dec 2016:
“Truly, God can do what he says he will do.”

🚧⚠️🚸Caution!!! Plastic Reconstruction in Progress🚢🌍😎

So why do we call it plastic surgery anyways?

If you are from a first-world country (you know, where we have so many resources that we get CAN surgery just for fun/vanity), you probably associate “plastic surgery” with nose jobs, breast augmentations, or tummy tucks.
I know I did.

I guess I associated those surgeries (and plastic things) with fakeness. Here, I have a much more comprehensive view of plastic reconstructive surgery, and I have come to understand it as a process that allows our patients to become their true self–physically and emotionally. This is not about covering up their scars, but rather allowing them to work THROUGH the pain of rehabilitation–to take back what has been lost.

I have told my patients many times, “the surgery was important, but unless you apply your lotion (for scar massage) and your exercises, it will be for nothing.”

I know, I know. Still doesn’t answer the question. Why the word plastic? Check this out:
“Plastic is derived from the Latin word plasticus and the Greek word plastikos, both meaning ‘able to be molded, pertaining to molding’. Most likely, Greeks used plastikos to describe unhardened versions of clay.”¹

Clay. Interesting buzzword.
Just now it’s dawning on me–our hearts are not unlike the physical reality of these beautiful patients. Our hearts have be wounded by the troubles and suffering of life and sin. Scabs and scars have formed to stop the bleeding, but sometimes our ability to function is impaired. Another life-event exposes the wound beneath. Stretching reminds us of the pain we have left unresolved.

These patients simply cannot regain function of their arm/leg/hand/neck unless the stiff, hardened scar tissue is released. However, the skin is not the only layer that needs intervention. The muscles and tendons have weakened and tightened from the lack of use. After the skin is released to allow for more movement, that is where the real work begins. Our rehab team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, and hand therapists are hard at work everyday stretching and exercising the patients to the brink of tears (more often OVER the brink). Also, they are responsible for the creation of the beautiful white splints (as you’ll see below) that continue to hold patients extremities in a favorable position.

Gosh, now that I see it, I just can’t stop drawing parallels. What a living illustration right before my eyes.

We have been scarred,
Our function impaired.

BUT GOD, our great Plastic Surgeon,
has given us the gift of salvation.

(Something we could never do for ourselves.)

We are truly a new creation,
but the work is not yet finished.

Christ’s rehab team is made of (wo)men,
to instruct, remind, stretch and bend.

Without salvation, this work is impossible,
but with faith and some rehab we are unstoppable.

I am a terrible poet,
Don’t I know it?

Haha, but seriously. We must work out our faith. That will involve pain, stretching, confessing to other people, and choosing to repeat our exercising every hour of every day…just like our patients. Our work will never negate our need for God. To the contrary, it reminds us that “every hour I need you!”

Listen to this as you read the scriptures below:
Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

I am the same as you in God’s sight; I too am a piece of clay. Job 33:6

You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? Isaiah 29:16

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 3:2

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds (works) is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. James 2:20-22

Let me leave you with these two things. They apply to plastics patients of the body  AND of the heart:

Work it out.
It will hurt.

Let us continue to work out our faith, trusting the Great Plastic Surgeon to supply all our needs and allowing his rehab team (people!!!) to support us THROUGH the pain of growth.

As you ponder ways that God desires to stretch you, enjoy a bunch of photos of our wonderful plastics patients and only SOME of the crew who have contributed to their treatment and rehabilitation process 🙂

¹http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/09/where-the-word-plastic-came-from/

If you would like to make a donation to this adventure, click below:
http://mercyships-us.donorpages.com/crewmates/kirstenmurphy/