A Missionary’s Story

5/12/2010 This is a true story. For privacy reasons, names have been left out or changed, and details are essentially correct.

The 25 year old female lay on the operating room table, sedated but awake listening to all of the foreign voices talking over her, around her. She had been brought into this cold room, all of these strange wires attached to her chest, her finger and a tight cuff placed around her arm that kept getting tighter and looser. She had come to this place for hope and help to rid her of the massive lumps that had grown over her face, obliterating her cheeks, pushing her nose to one side and changing her vision. Her breathing had become more difficult and she had to wear a headcloth over her face at all times to cover the monstrosity that had become her face. She received no support from family or friends and she expected none.
This was her first time to ever see the ocean, how massive and powerful. How scarey! This was her first time to see a ship – but the yova ( white woman) who met her sat beside a Togonese who spoke French and Ewe. They reassured her that she was safe and they would do all they could for her. How wonderful to hear that when for two years now she had been shunned and hopeless!
The translators and volunteers led her up the gangway, which rocked, into the bowels of this massive hulk that made huge noise. Everyone was friendly, smiling even if they couldn’t speak her language. Days passed as she waited in the ward, getting to know the nurses, waiting for the neurosurgeon to arrived from Germany for this major operation. But she had hope! The German maxillo-facial doctors were coming to assist, two of them.
The day of the operation was here – the surgeons were here. All over the ship you heard the Reception officer calling for volunteer blood donors to come to the lab so that they would have units of whole blood ready and waiting for this woman during her operation. Her blood type was B negative and without the volunteers donations, there would be no surgery. The call went out every few hours throughout the evening. Then the call changed to ” If anyone doesn’t know their blood type and is wiilling to donate, please come to the lab to be checked. Prayers went up all over the ship as we knew what was at stake for this woman. During this interim, the surgeons conferred and found the tumor to be malignant. Could they get it all?
The surgery began as scheduled, a crowd stood in the OR room 1. Three surgeons began the tracheotomy necessary before the surgery could begin. The woman’s eye darted from person to person as her anixiety built then the anesthesia medications began to work. Surely there is no greater trust than to give your life into the hands of strangers who cannot even speak to your fears or cares directly.
All of the surgical team moved into place as the patient’s airway was no secure and the massive job of seperating the tumor began at 4 pm. As they operated, they prayed. Again the call went out all across the decks of the ship,”If anyone has B negative blood and has not donated in the past 8 weeks, please come to the lab if you are will to donate.” As the crew filed into the dining room for dinner, the patient was on everyone’s mind. As hours passed, the call went out over and over, “If anyone doesn’t know their blood type and is willing to donate, please come to the lab at once.”
The surgical team prayed as they performed their tasks, and one of the scrub nurses from the Netherlands spoke up and volunteered to give blood. She was B negative. So she was replaced on the team, then ran to the lab and they returned shortly with her unit of blood to give to the patient lying sleeping on the table. Then the nurse scrubbed back in to the case, and finished the surgery with the team a few hours later. That is truly a “gift of life.” The nurse refused to be relieved from this case, her dedication to her craft apparent to all.
The story is not over for this young Togonese woman. She lies in ICU with a tracheostomy, on the ventilator fighting for her life as the physicians and nurses give of their time and their talents to save her life. Not for the money, not for a write up in a journal but because they care. They are giving their time, their talents, literally their blood sweat and tears for each and every patient that they work to make life better for. They are Christ’s hands and feet and givers of themselves even to their blood, the essence of life.

Trish DeMuth

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