no, no, yes...

It has been a wild ride for me this past year. I came to the ship arrogant, to be totally honest. I simply thought I had something to offer to the community of the ship and also the people of Liberia. Yes, I have skills, gifts, and talents that the Lord has blessed me with but I thought, Stephanie Ruth Barton could make a difference.

It all changed on February 18th. It was screening day and definitely the worst day of my life as a nurse. That one day of seeing the true needs of Africa (not just what is shown on Western television) showed me that my abilities, or even the most talented, helpful person in whole wide world is just a small, small piece of this incredibly large need.

On screening day we spent the majority of the day saying "no" to people with medical problems that we do not specialize in, in order to have room for the patients that we can truly help. Screening day was just the beginning of this process. (In Liberia there are no specialty surgeons other than the occasional NGO surgeon that sets up shop in the local hospital, but there is still a problem, there are not really any skilled anesthesiologists either. So even then the surgeries performed are only simple, for the most part.) People come to the gates of the port begging to be seen by a Dr. desperately hoping that they can board the most technologically advanced hospital in all of West Africa (aka their only option for their medical problem).

Kwelywan is 7, his father has brought him to the ship 3 times now in hopes that his son would get a "yes". The first 2 times they did tests and conferenced with Doctors around the world and the answer was no. Kwelywan has an encephalocele. An encephalocele is a birth defect where a piece of the skull doesn't close completely, therefore brain matter seeps out and forms a bulge usually in front of the face, between the eyes. The surgery is very complex, requires a lot of care, can have severe complications including death. These are surgeries that are rarely done in the States, so doing it here seems unreal. Dr. Gary has done 2 already this outreach and has had good results both times.

The third time that Kwelywan and his dad entered the ship they received the long awaited "yes". In my heart of hearts I feel conflicted. I am so excited that he may have the chance to live a life of acceptance in his village. However, I am worried that we may have bitten off more than we can chew. (can I say that?) This is the Kwelwan that I remember.



He is playful and silly. Now he is laying in bed with a bandage covering 2/3 of his whole head, so miserably uncomfortable that he can't help himself but to just thrash around in bed (not the best thing for a kid who just had brain surgery). This is where the arrogance comes in. I as a nurse want to come on to a shift, get report on my patients, then fix what is broken, but I can't. I can do my best. I can use the skills, abilities, and gifts the Lord has blessed me with and I can trust in the Lord to do the rest. That is my part of this big picture.

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