Skittles Save the Day!

Skittles Save the Day!

Time is flying by, and we will begin our second week of surgery on Monday. The screening day was successful, and thankfully was completed without incident. 3,500 people queued up with anticipation of receiving their appointment cards. Our 17 week surgery schedule was filled, although many had to be turned away. Little Kodjo, seen here with new roommate Ann from the US, was one of our first patients who received a cleft lip repair.

George and Frank returned from their DDTS training in Ghana. Their experience far exceeded their hopes, and I believe it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. They look great and are happy to be back on the ship. They have had a very heavy week, and worked the evening closing shift for five days.

They were thrilled with their new lap tops and have been busy downloading programs and setting them up. Their picture on my last posting tells the story! Many thanks for all of your support for George and Frank.

The three of us went to church last Sunday. There we had 3 languages on the go…Ewe…French and English (provided by our in-pew translators). Tylenol anyone? The church choir made the trip well worthwhile. They were simply amazing, singing most songs in 3 part harmony accompanied by African rhythms. If a CD had been cut that very day…I guarantee it would have been a best seller.

Our Day Workers began this week. Holaly from Togo, and Mark from Liberia. Holaly was an OR Sterilizer when the African Mercy was in Togo in 2010, and Mark was a Day Worker last year in Sierra Leone. Both will be joining George and Frank in the sterilization classes I will be teaching. George and Frank plan to take the certification exam before we leave Lome.

With Holaly, Mark, George, Frank and Juan…I am the token white female in the sterilizing room. So far the testosterone levels have been manageable ?

I almost made my first horrible mistake in the sterilizing room, when I got a cleaning brush jammed in a band new $20,000.00 endoscope. Unbeknown to me, I was using the wrong brush. It fit down the channel the first two times…but on number three??? I ran to the anesthetic Nurse Ali, who visibly paled on the spot. We had just received the scope a few days earlier. She tried a number of solutions, without success. Suddenly, I remembered that when we get the cleaning brushes stuck in the lumens (open tubes such as in a suction device) we turn the brushes in the opposite direction to release them. Ali turned and turned the long brush handle and …POP…it came free. Phew!

Went with bunkmate Polly and another friend Joanne to the Seaman’s centre. Polly was on call, so we could not venture far away. There we met a sailor from Georgia (by the Black Sea..not the one in the USA). He told us he was missing his wife, and then began to recite love poems to us in his language. Something about moonlit nights and love songs. Wow!

Friday was Frank’s 26th birthday. I planned a small party in the OR office at noon, and baked a cake on Thursday evening. This involved cooking in the dreaded Crew Galley. Although it is great to have the facilities to cook when you wish to….it is always a challenge. First of all the room has a very high ceiling, and is filled with stainless steel countertops, fridges etc. This creates a very loud echo, and an extremely high noise level…laughing, yelling crew members…banging pots and pans. Add 8-10 people at once and the ‘fun’ begins.

It seems that everyone needs to know what you are baking….and looks at and comments on the results. Most often this would not cause embarrassment…except when (as on Thursday evening) I could not find two cake pans that would match. At this point it would have been wiser to opt for making cupcakes….but as I had the image of a cake planted firmly in my brain, I simply refused to give it up. The anti was upped by the fact that I had baked a beautiful cake for Johanna’s birthday in November (if I do say so myself). I wanted to make one for Frank that was equally impressive.

I ended up with one round pan and one square one. I thought it would be simple enough to just put the round on top of the square. I did not heed the fact that the square was a little too big, and also had this awkward ridge in the bottom of it. I paid little attention to the fact that the bottom layer took too much batter, leaving a small amount for the top.

To make a long story short, the cake looked like a chocolate-iced deflated flying saucer. Female crew members commented on the fact that it was “not THAT bad”…and “after all…we ARE in Africa”… “it’s the THOUGHT that counts”. I tried to cover my mistakes with small colored cake decorating balls…some improvement, but simply not acceptable. It was in this moment of despair that I remembered that the ship shop sold those candy coated colored rounds called, Skittles. Two bags later, a rather funky polka dot cake emerged. Frank’s present was a folded Canadian flag sealed into an expired sterilizing pouch. He was thrilled.

I came to realize a new truth in life… if Skittles are available…life will always be good!

May your Skittles always arrive exactly when you need them.

Missing you,

P.S. I previously neglected to report that yes, indeed I did get the lower bunk! Thanks Polly!


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