Hello again my friends. Oh you don’t remember me? Yes I’m sorry it’s been so long, it’s too easy to get caught up life on the ship and to forget that there is a world outside of what we do here.
So I’ve decided to bring my world to you.
This will be the first post in my tour of the ship. Because that is what I do for my job except for media teams and millionaires. Yes my job is awesome.
To kick things off I’m going to describe one of the surgeries that we do on the ship. A surgery for a little thing called…
Now I must warn you that this condition is a bit sensitive. It relates to womanly bits and I know that makes some people uncomfortable. So if you are that person please send me some money on my pledge page– oh wait I mean maybe check out another website for a bit.
Anyways. Here is a picture of one of the final Obstetric Fistula (which we refer to as VVF) patients.
Why does she look so happy? Because she doesn’t have VVF anymore!
So what is VVF? Here is a nice technical description I got from the Mercy Ships website.
“Obstetric fistula is a preventable and mostly treatable condition that primarily affects young women from poor backgrounds. Fistula is one of the most devastating of all pregnancy-related disabilities. Usually the result of obstructed labour coupled with a lack of skilled medical care, obstetric fistula most often leads to permanent incontinence – a continuous leakage of urine and loss of control over bowel movements.”
That’s what it looks like in a textbook. What it looks like in reality is very different. It often looks like a woman who encounters problems during pregnancy. Usually the baby gets it’s little head stuck on the woman’s pubic bone. At this point in the western world we would give this particular lady a Cesarean section and pop the baby out. What happens in Africa is that this poor woman tries and tries and tries for 2-5 days to get this baby out and eventually she succeeds… though the baby is in 99 out of 100 times dead. The woman is now in mourning for her dead child – but her suffering hasn’t even yet begun. What often happens is because of the baby’s position in the womb there has opened up a rip or hole between the bladder or rectum leading into the birth canal and out the vagina. A few days later this woman realizes that she can’t stop this constant outflowing of pee (or often feces) from her vagina, resulting in her being constantly wet and stinky. She is then usually left by her husband and often times kicked out of her village, forced to scavenge for food at night, sleep in bushes and mourn her lost child.
It’s horrible isn’t it? But don’t worry, Mercy Ships is here to help.
All of these ladies you’ll see in the post once had VVF. They all lost children and many of them had lived for years in conditions I don’t even want to tell you about.
And now they are healed – or ‘dry’ as we call it on the ship. This means that they no longer leak urine or feces. It’s not an easy surgery, in fact the surgeons who volunteer and come to ship to help us do them are African themselves. We simply do not see this in the west.
The pictures you are seeing are all from an event called the Dress Ceremony that happens once a group of ladies are ready to be discharged. It’s an amazing event and the narrow hallway of the hospital is always crowded with people trying to fit into the tiny ward to see.
On the morning of the dress ceremony all the ladies are taken and dressed in amazingly fancy dresses. They are all done up in makeup (often for the first time in their life) and made to feel and know that they are beautiful. This is one of the most amazing parts of what we do on the ship. Not only are we healing these women’s bodies, we are giving them healing of their souls. During the ceremony they stand up and tell their testimonies and though they are all tragic and unique there is one thing that stays constant – all of these ladies went from a place where the world saw them as dirt and as a result they saw themselves as dirt. Now, because of Mercy Ships, they see themselves as valuable. They have received love for the first time in years. This is an amazing thing to witness.
The dress ceremony is a time of singing and dancing and celebrating. The ladies testimonies never fail to bring out a few tears in the eyes of those watching. At the end everyone takes a million photos and the ladies are given gifts that signify their restored self-worth and dignity. It’s a beautiful thing.
I am so grateful that I’ve gotten to be here and a part of everything that Mercy Ships is doing. I’m especially grateful that I’m able to come back for next year and that I get to continue what I’m doing. This is a lot thanks to you guys. Thank you so much for helping me be here and I hope that my (way too irregular) blogs are in some way repaying you. I’ll be doing more little tours like this to give you a look into the world here as we finish up our field service in the Congo.
If you feel so inclined I’m currently trying to raise enough money to fund my next field service and I’d appreciate any help you could give on my fundraising page – http://mercyships.donorpages.com/MERCYGIFTS/KyleSiemens/
If you’d like to see some more pictures, my friend and the writer on board, Catherine Murphy, has also written a story on this (which I literally just discovered) and she’s got a whole bunch of great pics! http://clarkemurphy.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/the-beauties-of-ward-b/
Thanks for reading guys. I’ll see you in a year or so. (but hopefully you’ll hear from me before that!)