Friday, June 4, 2010

Life or Death?

I received an email yesterday from a patient whose story I wrote. His name is Nougloze Yao, and he had quite a story. The email was in french, so I pulled out my 5 year old french skills and sharpened them up a bit. The gist of the email was thanking the doctors and the nurses of Mercy Ships for saving his life, and thanking me for being a friend. It touched my heart to receive his email. Here is the story I wrote about Nougloze Yao, with pictures of him below.

Not many people are put in a situation where their fate lies in their own two hands. Nougloze Yao, a 20-year-old builder from Lomé, was put in that exact position. Holding the hands of two Mercy Ships volunteers just minutes before surgery he had a very difficult decision to make: Life or death?
One year and three months ago, Nougloze Yao was in Ghana training to become a builder. A small pimple on his face had grown larger and he realized that what started out as nothing had become a painful growth inside his mouth.
Back in Lomé, his mother longed for the day her son would come home so she could care for him. Finally, he returned. Upon first sight of her son, his mother was dismayed. His condition was much worse that she had expected. Nougloze Yao’s uncle knew of the Mercy Ship that was docked in the port of Lomé. The next day they tried to go to the ship. Disappointed, they were turned away.
“Screening is over,” they were told, “We are not longer taking patients.” Heartbroken, his mother knew she could not give up.
She came to the ship every day. She experienced overwhelming feeling of sadness watching the patients who had cards being escorted onto the big white hospital ship. How can I get my son a card? she thought to herself. She knew Mercy Ships was his only chance.
One day, as she waited on the dock with the other patients, a crewmember approached her and asked her why she looked so distressed. “My son,” she said, “He is in great pain.” The crewmember told her to bring him back to the ship, and she would see what they could do.
Elated, the mother rushed home to relay the joyous news to Nougloze Yao. Neither of them slept well that night: the anticipation and eagerness for a surgery to remove the tumor kept them in constant prayer. The next morning, with a heart filled with hope, Nougloze Yao arrived on the dock of the Africa Mercy surrounded by a support system of 7 family members! Admittance nurses agreed it was a case that Dr. Gary Parker would need to see for final approval.
Once onboard, Nougloze Yao met with Dr. Parker. The doctor assessed the tumor and gave the final authorization: Nougloze Yao was approved for surgery!
The day of surgery arrived, and Nougloze Yao had a very uneasy feeling. As he was escorted onto the Africa Mercy, his surroundings were unfamiliar but he tried to be brave. Just before surgery he was given a form to sign saying that he consented to a blood transfusion in the event of complications. “No,” he said, “it is against my religion to receive blood.”
Deb Jacobson, Patient Life Coordinator onboard the Africa Mercy, learned that he was a Jehovah Witness, and it is against their religion to have a blood transfusion.
After this realization, Deb knew she needed to pray for this man. She asked God to help her reach out to this patient and make him realize the magnitude of this decision. If he did not sign the paper, he would not receive surgery and it is almost certain he will die within the next few months. He is choosing between his own life and his own death.
Deb received a call from Dr. Giles saying he needed the signature in the next 15 minutes. Deb took Nougloze Yao into a private room, and together they prayed. His fists were clenched with fear and stress. He was sweating. He began to cry.
Deb recalls, “We sat there and we prayed quietly and we struggled and cried, and finally he pointed to the papers and said he’d sign them. But even to sign them he was clenching his hand, he was holding the chair, he was fighting everything that he had inside him.”
Nougloze Yao, through silent tears and an intense internal struggle, agreed to sign the form. He chose life.
His surgery went off without a hitch. No transfusion was needed after all. God was smiling down on Nougloze Yao that day, and now he’s living a tumor-free life with a perfect smile to prove it.

Nougloze Yao when he arrived to the Africa Mercy at the beginning of May.

Post-Op photo of Nougloze Yao just 2 weeks after surgery!!

Nougloze and his mother :)

Looking good outside this ship!! Amazing transformation.


  1. WOW! That's amazing! -Cozad

  2. I am so touched reading the stories of the kids/patients that you're seeing/treating. It is amazing learning what Mercy Ships does...

  3. This story and its photos touch my heart too!! Just a wonderful thing to read and to see the impact that Mercy Ships has had on this one life in Togo. Makes me smile, big!

  4. What was the final diagnosis of the tumour?


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