Here is a story I wrote about a patient in our Palliative Care program. Great pics to go along with it--thanks to Tom :)
Mercy Ships does its best to help every patient that they can. The desperate need for medical care in West Africa, however, far surpasses the capability of Mercy Ships’ resources.
On screening day many patients wait in line for hours to eventually be told that there is nothing that can be done to save them. This is devastating news to someone whose last hope was the free medical care of Mercy Ships.
Ayabavi was one of the individuals to receive that devastating news. For 18 years she watched a tumor grow on the side of her face. She built up the courage to come out of hiding to attend the Mercy Ships screening. Mercy Ships doctors performed a biopsy and gave her a CT scan. It was determined that she had a very advanced malignant disease and the tumor was inoperable.
With her world shattered, Ayabavi had no where to turn. Because of the tumor, several of her children had not talked to her in years. She was literally alone and empty. Cases like this are the reason why Mercy Ships has developed a Palliative Care Program.
Palliative Care, also known as Hospice, is a service that Mercy Ships provides to ease the hardship of having a terminal illness. Harriet Molyneux is the Palliative Care Nurse on the Africa Mercy.
“Our goal with this program is to meet weekly with the patients and be a bright spot in their week. We pray with them, talk to them, and help ease their pain by giving them medication and dietary advice,” Harriet says.
Harriet has been meeting with Ayabavi every week for 3 months at her daughter’s food store in the village Vogan, a 1 hour drive from Lomé.
“We’ve been talking through Bible verses and praying with her. She seems to be a lot more peaceful about [her situation] now. We also give her pain relief and talk through any issues she might be having,” says Harriet.
Harriet takes advantage of as many local resources as she can because at the end of the Togo field service Ayabavi will be on her own without a source for pain medication. The Morenga tree is a natural dietary supplement that is packed with vitamins, protein and carbohydrates. Ayabavi crushes the leaves and drinks the liquid to provide essential nutrients which are lacking in her diet.
Ayabavi’s life has definitely changed since Harriet began visiting. “Without this program,” Ayabavi states, “I would already be dead.”
“I get excited every Wednesday knowing that Mercy Ships is coming. It helps make my life better. Before they started coming I was ashamed and those around me would hold their nose because I smelled bad. Now, their treatment has helped make the smell go away.”
Ayabavi’s daughter, Tante, has seen a visible change in her mother since Palliative Care started coming to see her.
Tante says, “I can tell that she feels more comfortable being around others. Before, she never had the confidence to sit among a group of people. Look at her now, sitting with a group of 10 people talking freely. They have truly transformed my mother’s life.”
Confidence is not the only thing that Ayabavi has gained. She has also started studying the Bible. A friend at her church reads passages to her every week. It is clear that one verse has been imprinted in her mind.
“Read Phillipians 4:6,” Ayabavi says to the translator Silvie, “This is the one I think about during the day when I get sad or feel down.”
Silvie reads to her: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Ayabavi smiles a deep, solid smile for the first time since Harriet & team have arrived. It is obvious that this passage has truly touched her. The mood has lightened and hope has entered the humid air. She asks to read it again, and Silvie does.
The relief Ayabavi has received has transformed her and helped her cope with her tragic situation. Though the day will come when Harriet won’t be making weekly visits, Ayabavi chooses to focus on the assistance she’s been lucky to have.
“I do not think that any hospital, anybody, any other person could do the help that they can do. They have helped me so much.”
Those words are what Harriet and the Palliative Care team work so hard to hear. Life is precious and you don’t appreciate it enough until it is taken away. Harriet knows that the team has made a difference in Ayabavi’s precious life.