Kpely, continued

May 30, 2010

Monday, May 24 was an important day. I was already back home in Austin, at least in body–I am certain that the rest of me was in Togo. Monday was screening day for VVF patients. Kpely would travel to Lome on Sunday and be examined by the surgeon the following morning. Only he could answer the tough questions: Is her leaking truly due to a fistula? Can she be cured with surgery? And, most significantly, Is there room for her in the VVF program? 120 women would come to the ship, hoping for one of 68 surgery slots. Nearly half these women must be told that Mercy Ships cannot help them.

I churned out prayers, tracked her travels in my mind, and then…held my breath. Two days later, on Wednesday, Maggie emailed me with the news I had been waiting to hear: Kpely will have surgery! How my heart sings!

I am grateful that God chose to use Pierre and me, and then Maggie, and now the surgeon and nurses, to show our very special woman just how much He loves her. This impoverished soul, suffering so great a deformation, will be given back her femininity. Her humanity. Her life.

From this point on, Kpely will stay with the other VVF women. Each will be surprised to learn that she is not alone in her condition–that there are other women who suffer the same disgrace. They will begin to talk with each other, and through complex chains they will translate from one tribal language to the next. Friendships will sprout. Hope will rise. The healing will begin. And then, on June 9, Kpely will be wheeled into the OR, and the surgeon will close her fistula.


Once again, I ask you to pray for our beloved Kpely. And, while you’re at it, thank our God for orchestrating infinitely more than we can imagine.


There is a poignant documentary about fistula patients in Ethiopia called A Walk to Beautiful. You can watch it online (for free). It is just under an hour long, and worth every minute.


It’s difficult to know how to say goodbye to those you probably will not see again. I ran up against this yesterday, bidding farewell to our translators. Out of their humble wages, they had bought me cards and jewelry and artwork, all tokens by which to remember our time together. We hugged and laughed, and then it became just a bit awkward. For a moment I thought about leaving them with a phrase from our friend Jane, sung in a British accent as she whisked out the door last week: “If I can’t find you on facebook, I’ll find you in heaven!” Fortunately, Pierre piped in before I could, and he left us with words most fitting: “Only mountains never meet.”

Amen to that. Farewell, Togo, and thank you.

To Maria:

May 9, 2010

Who can sit still on such an exciting day?! We’re sending big hugs and kisses from afar.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Is there anything more shocking than a meat market in a third world country? Drawing from yesterday’s excursion, I give an emphatic No! Pierre, Joel, Jane (a short-term ophthalmic nurse) and I trekked to the open-air food bazaar. Slabs of pink and red flesh sweat in the afternoon heat, and flies feast on every sort of animal body part you can imagine. But, believe it or not, we had come here to make a purchase! Pierre gave our order to a butcher at a far stall. Before you could say hamburger, *Pop! Pop!* out came both eyes from the cow head propped on his concrete counter. The price then quoted for a pair of eyeballs was ridiculously high (yovo prices, tsk tsk). We walked away, but the butcher’s ensuing fury–after all, who would now want his cow head without the eyes?!–persuaded us to pay for our peepers and skeedaddle.

Wednesdays are training days for our translators, so this morning we turned our grotesque find into a wildly fun anatomy lesson! Everyone sliced and poked and squished. I managed to snag some expired IOLs (intraocular lenses) from the OR, and soon enough Joel was teaching the group to perform cataract surgery. I was tickled to watch a third grade science experiment cause such fascination:

“Papa” Pierre oversees Isaac’s scalpel technique:

I was curious if someone would ask to bring home the pieces, but alas, there were no takers. Eyeball soup, anyone?

Girls go to Ghana

May 4, 2010

Rumor has it that Ghana is significantly more developed than Togo. Skyscrapers pattern the horizon of Accra, the capital city. For our weekend away, though, 7 friends and I skipped the urban mayhem. We piled into a minibus and drove upcountry to Wli Falls. After marvelling over simple signs of civilization–a stripe painted down the middle of the road! gas station convenience stores that look like…well, gas station convenience stores!–the giddiness gave way to calm as we arrived in a slow-paced, rural haven.

A day-long hike to the top of Wli Falls, West Africa’s tallest waterfalls:

Linda, one of the ship’s lab techs and my bunkmate, with some fast friends:

Run, Hannah, Run!

The perfect way to spend a birthday weekend =)