Up to our eyeballs...

Monrovia Travel Blog

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Dr Tom's eye room

Sorry-o for not updating for awhile.  Lots have been happening since the last update.  Eyes are completely done.  We had about 5 weeks of eye surgeries.  During that time we had 4 different eye surgeons come in, one staying the whole time and the others over lapping.  We did our final push and now there are no more eyes for the entire outreach.  I wish I knew the exact number of people who have been given the gift of sight, but we did about 30 eyes a day, if that gives you and idea of how many people we saw. 

Last Friday, I went out to the eye tent out on the dock.  This is where all the post op eye patients go to have their check ups.  I got there first thing in the morning in order to be there for the first day post ops- these are the patients that we did the day before and where getting their dressings removed.

Post op eyes
  It can be a very emotional time, because these people get to see for the first time out of an eye that was no longer working properly.  One lady, her name was Mary, was completely blind due to cataracts.  I remembered her from the day before, cause I lead her into the OR by both hands, talking her through where to go and helping her on to the bed.  I asked her if she remembered me when she walked through the tent door, still with her cane and an eye patch covering her eye (we only did one eye so the other one still had a cataract in it).  She said she did and allowed me to help her walk through the crowded tent and sit down.  I took off her eye patch and told her to open her eyes.  She blinked for a moment and was very quiet.
Removing Mary's dressing
  I leaned down to be eye level with her and asked her- can you see me?  A big smile filled her face as she looked right at me and said YES!  She gave me a big hug and after a couple of vision tests and getting her big dark glasses, she danced out of the tent with her daughter.  It was a very rewarding morning.

Next year the ship is going to Benin- another West Africa country farther down the coast.  And as a way to prepare people for the idea of going to Benin (and a way to get people to exercise), we have a program called 'Walking to Benin'.  It is 908 miles from Monrovia, Liberia to Benin.  We are in teams of 6 (my team is called Slow & Steady) and every day we walk to Benin- or walk the dock, as it is really called.

Jen & Mary
  From the end of the dock to the main gate and back is 1 mile.  So after supper, when the weather has finally cooled off enough, you will find most of the ship walking.  My team has walked 409 miles so far.

This past weekend was a first for me.  My first time sleeping off ship.  There is a nice place about 3 hours north of Monrovia, called Roberts Port.  Before the war it was the surfing capital of West Africa.  Now there is a nice resort, owned and operated by a group of South Africans, right on the beach and is a favorite weekend getaway for Mercy Ships and other NGOs.  We get to stay in tents right on the beach and not just any kind of tents, these are nice large, luxury tents, complete with 2 full size memory foam beds, a sitting area and mini fridge.

"Walking to Benin"
  It was heaven!  I spent all day Saturday and Sunday just relaxing on the beautiful white sand beach, enjoying our time in the sun and playing in the waves, chasing crabs in the moonlight on the beach.  Instead of waking up to the constant drone of the generators, I woke up to the peaceful sounds of birds chirping and a nice sea breeze blowing through the tent.  A very nice way to start the day.

Getting to Roberts Port is sometimes a challenge, having to stop at the UN check points, and getting home is an even bigger one.  The thing is that you have to find a taxis that is willing to not only take you the 3 hours north to Roberts Port, but you need to find one that will take you back home when you are ready to leave.  Through a fellow crew member, we were set up with a 'reliable' taxis driver, who for $40 would take us there and another $40 to take us home on Sunday.

Our luxury tent
  We got there just fine, only have to stop once and explain ourselves at a check point.  The problem is never getting there, its getting home.  Our taxis driver decided not to come get us!  Obviously, there are worse places to be stranded than on a nice safe beach, but you still need to get home somehow.  Luckily, by the grace of God, we were able to find a ride back to the ship from one of the resort shuttles and made it back to the ship by 7pm.  It just adds to the African experience. 

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Dr Toms eye room
Dr Tom's eye room
Post op eyes
Post op eyes
Removing Marys dressing
Removing Mary's dressing
Jen & Mary
Jen & Mary
Walking to Benin
"Walking to Benin"
Our luxury tent
Our luxury tent
Jen & Brian- we run the eye room!
Jen & Brian- we run the eye room!
Walking the dock at sunset
Walking the dock at sunset
Lounging at the Nanas Lodge beach…
Lounging at the Nana's Lodge beac…
A gorgeous sunset on the beach in …
A gorgeous sunset on the beach in…
Our home away from home, away from…
Our home away from home, away fro…
Monrovia
photo by: Bluenose