Monday, June 27, 2011

Sessi Sees

Mercy Ship's one minute daily feature "The Mercy Minute®" encourages listeners to make a lasting difference in a world of need by following the example of Jesus! Don Stephens explains how it doesn't matter if you cross the ocean or just a street--you can help those in need!

Sessi [Sess-see] wanted to kill himself. For eight years he’d been unable to work. He was a burden to his family. And in his West African culture, his blindness was seen as a curse. He was ridiculed and shunned. Then he heard about a free Mercy Ships Eye Clinic... Take one minute out of your busy life today to listen to this uplifting story of mercy and hope.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Getting an MRI or What it feels like being Abducted by Aliens!

Had some more tests done to help figure out the reason for my recent onset of sudden double vision and thus found myself at the curiously named Tyler Open MRI.

I should have known something was up when while quietly sitting there waiting, a lady came out clutching her elbow and whimpering. She looked shaken.

I was the only person in the waiting room and with about 30 chairs available she made a beeline for the chair next to me. As she sat down she proclaimed in a hoarse voice that she never, ever want to go through that again. Up until that point I have deliberately kept myself ignorant of what exactly getting an MRI entailed. I went from squinting at the ceiling to horrified in 3 seconds flat! WHAT THE HECK WERE THESE PEOPLE GOING TO DO TO ME.

Minutes later a gentleman, build like the proverbial brick outhouse, came calling me. This did not help at all. Why does he need so many muscles, why did that lady clutch her lame elbow… is bone breaking involved? Dammit, I should have done some research!

After a cursory, your clothes are fine, leave all metal things in that locker over there and follow me, we walked past the WC and he asked if I need to go potty... (WHY????) Up until now I desperately avoided eye contact but he must have caught my bewildered look as he gently told me it takes about 40 minutes as it was quite a thorough test.

We entered a cavernous room and I laid eyes on the MRI machine. It was HUGE.

After receiving some instructions and getting ear plugs I was told to lay down on the bed thingy. My head was placed in a cradle and foam wedges were stuffed around my head, effectively immobilizing it. I saw Mr. Muscles talking to me, but I heard nothing, my imagination got a head start. Then he closed the cradle over my face, the bed started sliding deeper into the machine and at the same time it lifted.

Fighting off a panic attack I started feeling heat on my stomach and realized that I am right up to the ceiling end of the machine. No matter how I squinted, all I saw were a blur, it all looked like the same plastic as the head cradle. Then the most bizarre sounds started. Forty minutes of clanking, beeping and whirring, intersped with deathly silence, just to start again.

I felt thoroughly alone.

Afterwards I read that Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is a technique used in radiology to visualize detailed internal structures. An MRI machine uses a powerful magnetic field to align the magnetization of some atoms in the body, and radio frequency fields to systematically alter the alignment of this magnetization. This causes the nuclei to produce a rotating magnetic field detectable by the scanner—and this information is recorded to construct an image of the scanned area of the body. MRI provides  contrast between the different soft tissues of the body, which make it especially useful in imaging the brain, compared with other medical imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) or X-rays.

The noise I kept hearing was from the switching of field graients which caused a change in the Lorentz force experienced by the gradient coils, producing minute expansions and contractions of the coil itself. As the switching is typically in the audible frequency range, the resulting vibration produces loud noises (clicking or beeping). This is most marked with high-field machines and rapid-imaging techniques in which sound intensity can reach 120 dB(A) (equivalent to a jet engine at take-off).

This is the closest I have ever come to experience what it must be like to be abducted by aliens. Fantastic sci-fi noises, being prodded and probed while being restrained… having needled inserted etc. Oh, that turned out to be the reason for the elbow clutching. They inject you with some kind of contrasting agent… ofcourse you don’t see any of this, just feel hands searching for a good vein and the ‘ugh, not a good one’ as you feel the desperate mopping up of blood. After three tries he seemed happy and back into the machine I went.

By now I had a massive headache, nausea rising and cramping muscles. Desperately trying NOT to accidently squeeze the panic button placed in my hand as I did not wanted to prolong the experience or possibly cheesing Mr. Muscles off.

Finally, after what felt like hours, it ended and after being told that getting the results will take three days, I was unceremoniously let out... From getting off the machine to being in my car in the blazing Texas sun in under three minutes. Not even offered a cookie to calm my nerves.

Well, I drove my shaking behind over to BJ’s and drank the strongest 9% beer (haha, called an Arrogant Bastard, the beer, not me), I went home.

What an experience.

source: wikipedia

Monday, June 13, 2011

Living Blood Bank:

Mercy Ships Celebrates World Blood Donor Day

Garden Valley, Texas, June 10, 2011 – Millions of people around the world owe their lives to individuals they will never meet — people who donate their blood to help others.

But in West Africa on a charity hospital ship operated by Mercy Ships, recipients are given the opportunity to thank the donors who saved their life – face to face.

“We call it a walking blood bank,” says Jonesboro, Georgia, native Claudia Juarez, Senior Lab Technologist on the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. “When crew members arrive, they have the option to become blood donors. If they agree, they are screened and are informed that when the need for blood arises, they could be asked to donate right away.”

Because of a lack of storage space on the tightly-packed ship, blood is not stockpiled to use in emergencies. And because all crew members on the Africa Mercy are volunteers – they have sacrificed to help those in need in West Africa – there is never a shortage of donors when a call goes out.

A month ago, one of the lucky recipients was twenty three-year-old Harding Sesay of Guinea, West Africa. Harding was an active teenager until a boil on his nose began to grow so large that it blocked the vision in his right eye. With no access to a local doctor and no money for medical attention, help seemed impossible. But he received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was able to have the tumor removed on the Africa Mercy in Sierra Leone.

Ward nurse Corina Buth had volunteered to be part of the Africa Mercy’s walking blood bank upon her arrival on the ship. Her pre-donation screening tests were done, and she knew she had been cross-matched for a patient going to surgery. Buth was the nurse on duty to prepare Harding for surgery. She prepped him, walked him into the Operating Room, and witnessed his operation to remove the large facial tumor.

Seeing his massive blood loss during surgery, she wondered if she would be needed to donate blood for him. To her surprise later that evening, she was called to the Intensive Care Unit, where she learned that Harding did need a blood transfusion. On the spot, with Harding in the bed right next to her, Buth gave a unit of blood. Within minutes of her donation, the blood was being transfused to restore the large amounts lost during the procedure.

The next morning Harding searched for the words to thank Buth, but was unable to articulate his thoughts. His silence didn’t bother her. “His eyes told the whole story. I knew he was thankful,” she said.

So far this year, 209 crew members on the Africa Mercy have signed up to be blood donors. Out of those, 162 have been cross-matched with 95 patients who would potentially need blood for their surgical procedures. A total of 37 units of blood have been donated.

Mercy Ships has carved out their own method in blood donation. Many lives have been saved due to the “walking blood bank.” Such a unique and effective means of donating blood gives the donor a whole new perspective on saving a life. When you can shake the patient’s hand after a transfusion of your blood has saved his or her life . . . it is a priceless moment.

Harding finds it hard to believe how dramatically his life has changed. “For so many years I suffered,” he said, referring to the seven years he hid from society. “Now, I am happy, and I’m full of joy. Thanks to God for what Mercy Ships has done for me.”

Photos by Debra Bell, Tom Bradley and Geke Rustenbrug

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pondering 'The Rose'...

Saturday night and I am pondering the latest woe that has befallen me (what a month!), I have seemingly overnight (a week ago) developed quite a severe case of double vision. After getting some test done, the latest diagnosis suggest that I have fourth nerve palsy.

I had to go look it up. Turns out the fourth cranial nerve innervates the superior oblique muscle for each eye. The superior oblique muscle is one of the six extraocular muscles that allow movement of eye. Specifically, the superior oblique muscle primarily intorts the eye (such that the top of the eye rolls toward the nose), with secondary actions of depression (downgaze) and abduction (looking away from the nose).

When this muscle’s function is diminished due to a fourth cranial nerve (CN IV) palsy, the affected eye will extort, deviate upward (hypertropia), and, to a smaller extent, drift inward.

No wonder I am pondering life! So, here I am passed midnight, feeling sorry for myself and I came across The Rose... every time I hear it I am a wreck and me a grown man... lol

"The Rose" was written by Amanda McBroom and made famous by Bette Midler, who performed it in the 1979 movie, "The Rose." McBroom won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, although she was not nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Midler won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "The Rose".

There are two mixes of the song. The single mix features orchestration, while the version in the film (and on its soundtrack) includes an extended introduction while doing away with the orchestration in favor of piano-and-vocals only.

Anyway, this all leads to me lying in bed listening to the song and pondering the lyrics...

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed
That with the sun's love, in the spring
Becomes the rose

Below is the divine Miss Bette singing The Rose, if you cannot see the video, watch it HERE.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay

Playing For Change is one of my all time favourite NGO's! Below is a beautiful rendition of (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay from their new album called PFC2 - Songs Around The World, done with the help of artist across the world. The song starts out with the awesome voice of Rodger Ridley, a street performer from Santa Monica, CA. Mark Johnson from Playing for Change once asked Roger the question: with a voice as powerful as his, why was he singing on the streets? He replied, “I am in the joy business. I come out here to be with the people.”

Roger and Grandpa have brought so much joy to the lives of millions, and in this song we are blessed to see them reunited again. We all shine on, and Roger’s light is as bright as the sun!!

If you annot see the video below, you can watch it HERE!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

West African Businessmen Raises Money for Mercy Ships

Ecobank, West African Businessmen Raise $30,000 for Mercy Ships

Freetown, Sierra Leone, June 2, 2011 – History was made in Sierra Leone, the West African Nation ranked at the bottom of the Human Development Index. Seven years ago, 70,000 UN Peace keeping troops were in this nation. Today, the UN numbers less than 70. Two democratic elections have been successfully completed. The nation willingly disarmed. As the nation celebrates 50 years of independence, it seems fitting that West African businesses would donate to support the work of Mercy Ships. It is the fifth visit of a Mercy Ship to Freetown so the organization is well known and trusted.

Ecobank, the leading independent regional banking group in West and Central Africa, hosted a dynamic fundraising auction on board Mercy Ships’ hospital ship, the Africa Mercy on the first day of June. The auction attracted over 50 businessmen and women from Freetown, Sierra Leone; raising over $30,000 USD for the international charity, Mercy Ships. The reputation of healthcare delivery to the poorest of the poor as well as the transparency of the organization convinced the West African businessmen and women that this was a worthwhile investment.

“I think it was time we showed some appreciation,” said Ecobank Managing Director, Clement Dodoo. “This is the fifth time Mercy Ships is in our town and we can all see the wonderful things they are doing. We will never forget this day. This is not an Ecobank event, this is for all of us. I am really, really touched.”

President and Founder Don Stephens highlighted the unique business model of charging the mainly all volunteer professional crew for the privilege of serving. Not only must all crew [currently 410 onboard from 41 nations] pay for air transportation but also monthly room and board. In particular, the West African business community commended the unique model of a global community living, working, serving and worshipping together while onboard ship.

The guests attending the fundraiser were given a tour of the hospital and they were amazed by the work being done—and the lives being changed—on this hospital ship. This event strengthened the excellent working relationship between Ecobank and Mercy Ships.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gary Parker, addressed the group with a moving explanation of the mission of Mercy Ships and how the organization changes lives. Still in his medical scrubs, Dr. Parker had excused himself from surgery on the hospital deck, walked up three flights of stairs to speak at the event, and afterwards he re-entered the Operating Room to finish up surgery!

The auction was conducted by Winston Ojukutu-Macauley, former BBC Africa Service correspondent in Sierra Leone. To liven the atmosphere, he spurred the crowd to open their wallets—digging deep to donate to such an outstanding cause. “Mercy Ships is doing so much more than just operations; they help eradicate ignorance. Many people here still believe that curses and witchcraft [cause these conditions]. These doctors fix a leg or remove a tumor and show our people it’s not a curse, just a condition that can be helped.”

Items up for auction included paintings, football jerseys of West African players who play now in leading European Clubs such as Real Madrid, dinner certificates, perfume by the First Lady and three books about Mercy Ships, signed by the author and Founder of the organization, Don Stephens.

Mercy Ships has performed thousands of surgeries for free in Sierra Leone, including cleft lip and palate repair, orthopedic surgeries, tumor removal and cataract removal. Over the past 18 years, Mercy Ships has served in Sierra Leone five times. The organization has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans.

In closing, Mercy Ships President/Founder, Don Stephens, addressed the guests.

“Mercy Ships has been considering opening an office in West Africa because we had the sense that West Africans wanted to join us at another level to bring hope and healing to this region. What you have done today has confirmed you are well ahead of us! The time for Africa has come. What you have done tonight has encouraged me beyond words—that we are on the right track. From the depth of my heart… it’s not Mercy Ships thanking you, it’s those who are outcasts and rejected and whose lives will be forever changed. Together, we have made history tonight!”

Photos taken by Pamelina Chang

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Africa Mercy Welcomes Sierra Leone President

President Koroma tours hospital ship

Freetown, Sierra Leone, June 02, 2011 - Top government officials from the Republic of Sierra Leone toured the Mercy Ships flagship, the Africa Mercy, on Friday, May 27, 2011. President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana, and the Honorable Minister of Health and Sanitation, Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura received a warm reception from the 450 crew members serving onboard the hospital ship.

After being welcomed on the dock by Africa Mercy Managing Director Donovan Palmer, the dignitaries climbed the gangway and were greeted by members of Mercy Ships International Board of Directors.

The special guests were given a tour of the ship and the hospital wards. The dignitaries met several patients and learned about their life-changing surgeries first-hand. After the tour, a presentation was held in which Dr. Gary Parker showed before and after photos of patients treated onboard the Africa Mercy. The dramatic transformations moved President Koroma as he addressed the Mercy Ships board members and crew:

“You have given a lot of hope to a good number of our fellow Sierra Leoneans,” said President Koroma. “You have treated people with extreme difficulties. I know that as a nation that is committed to moving forward as a government, you have helped us to build up our capacity and provide a service. We thank you for what you have done.”

The President’s visit to the Africa Mercy comes at the same time that Mercy Ships President/Founder, Don Stephens, was presented with a Diamond Award from The Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone in Washington, D.C. This prestigious award recognized his contribution to the development of Sierra Leone.

This is the fifth time that Mercy Ships has visited Sierra Leone. The country has made great strides to raise its level of health care, but it still ranks at the bottom of the 2010 United Nations Human Development Index (158 out of 169 countries). Mercy Ships has aligned its program offerings with the nation’s five-year National Health Sector Strategic Plan (NHSSP). The key objective of the plan is to strengthen the functions of the national health system.

Since the ship’s arrival in February 2011, Mercy Ships has performed over 750 surgeries, over 12,000 dental procedures, and trained over 500 individuals in either agriculture, mental health, or church leaders’ training. Mercy Ships will conclude its 10-month Field Service in Sierra Leone in December 2011.

As the presentation came to a close, President Koroma’s remarks to the crew showed a sincere appreciation for the work of Mercy Ships in Sierra Leone. “You have collaborated with us – worked very hard to help us provide smiles. You are willing to help people get back to a normal life. People who were not able to walk – they wobbled – they are now walking. It is a good gift to our country. On behalf of the government, once more, I thank the Director, the initiative and the leaders. God Bless you all.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011