Posted by on Nov 21, 2013 in Blog, Personal Stories | 0 comments

During my first two years on board the Africa Mercy, I didn’t naturally get a lot of time to spend with the patients, especially in the regular course of my jobs.

You might not realize this from half of the pictures that we release, but many of our day-to-day lives don’t revolve directly around our patients – even though all of our jobs revolve around them at some level of orbit. In fact, many of us are lucky to see our patients at all without a concerted effort (when I was in our IT department, for example, I hardly saw patients as a part of my work day).

This time around is different for me.

grace-patient-africa-mercy-tumor-maxillo-facial-jay-swanson

I spend time on the wards almost every day now, and a lot of that awkwardly asking patients to “walk back down the hallway again” for cameras. It gives me a good chance to get to know them a little, and make friends along the way.

Grace is one you’ve seen on here before, she’ll be in a documentary this coming spring, and she’s a spunky gem. She had a tumor that was described to me by one of the attending anesthesiologists as “the size of a chicken” removed from her jaw, and she never missed a beat.

Jay-and-Grace

She still wins at pretty much every game I play with her, and I’m really excited to see what her second surgery does for her.

Naomi-on-deck-7

Naomi is another spitfire. I found out today that she’s decided she’s not smiling at the staff any more – but I had to find that out from a few nurses and a physio, because I would have never known otherwise. She smiled a lot for me today.

I don’t say that to brag. If I was bragging I’d post a photo of a smile as proof. I’m not gonna mess with whatever magic I’ve got going. There’s a little girl on the ward who won’t let anyone pick her up, for example, and I’m not about to test myself on that. I just say it to express the uniqueness of each relationship.

There’s a huge privilege in getting to be a part of this process, of being directly associated with a patient’s experience with Mercy Ships. I showed Natasha, a maxillofacial patient, her segment in the piece that France 24 aired last month and asked her some questions about what she thought of it. Whether she found it weird to be on TV. Whether everything they said about her was true.

Because of my French, and this weird job where I follow patients from start to finish, I somehow become a part of it. I connect. I don’t cut anything, or bandage anything up, or clean up after accidents, or administer care to relieve pain. I don’t do any of the truly important jobs in the process as far as the patient is concerned, and yet I get to be a part of what most will describe later as happy memories.

That’s a privilege, and one that I’m really happy to have this time around.