Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Joyeux Noel from Guinea! (otherwise known as, Update 2.4.5) Part 1

Mercy Ships – A belated update at almost 2 (3?!) months on board…

Happy Christmas! Joyeux Noel! God Jul! All from the Africa Mercy Midships.

My African fabric
Christmas dress
So glad it was done in time!

On this, the second day of Christmas, I am finally writing another blog update! I have been thinking about writing for a while, but it has been pretty busy here, so now is the time. The Operating Room is closed – except for emergency cases – for two weeks over Christmas and New Years, so we are enjoying the break. It is quite the experience to have two weeks off! It almost feels like I’m back in school… also in that school mindset, I’m on my second latte as I’m procrastinating writing to you this afternoon…

As I am so good at being busy and procrastination, there is almost too much to write in one post, so I’ll do a little story telling via pictures. Most are not my own (I always forget to bring my phone/take pictures…), but are graciously made available on our shared drive – just so you know (and I'll try & give credit where due!).

Work Life:
A Canadian, an American & a Kiwi walked into an OR...
and had a great week!

My little "office" in OR 2 - pictures of my Pinkie,
Reeree and Co. to keep me going through the weeks.

Before orthopedic kiddo
* MercyShips Guinea 2018 archive

Leg Day on Deck 7! It's pretty much the cutest thing to get
stopped on my way to the OR by the tiny walker traffic jam!
Alas, no photos of this, so enjoy those pink casts.
* MercyShips Guinea 2018 archive

More working out - with lots of encouragement!
Ortho is not my specialty here, but look at those faces & legs -
a pretty dramatic change even in the in-between stage.
* MercyShips Guinea 2018 archive

He gets to rest at last!
* MercyShips Guinea 2018 archive

Way to go!
* MercyShips Guinea 2018 archive

A rare General surgery photo!
Dr. Neil revealing a newly thinned neck! Such a great surgeon.
* MercyShips Guinea 2018 archive

Look at that tiny bandage!
* MercyShips Guinea 2018 archive

Let's see - a couple of Aussies, Americans, Guineans, a North Irish,
 a South Korean, a Dutchy and a Kiwi just finished a great week.
I.e., my fantastic OR 2 team.
*photo courtesy of Dr. Michael

The last day of surgery before Christmas break!
*photo courtesy of Dr. Michael
*mustaches courtesy of Betsy & Dr. Andy
*photobomb provided by Alimou

A Very Delayed Posting of Update 1.2.5

Up date, mid-week 2 (probably 6, November, 2018):

So far, it has been a good week, but lots of work from the whole team. We are all pretty tired. We had two big surgeries – one on Monday and Tuesday. Our little patients seem to be doing well, but please pray for them – they have gone through a lot! And pray for us – it is a lot of work and stressful for planning. I’m especially feeling added pressure of new responsibilities and so much learning! The tiredness is understandable, but I would appreciate your prayers. 

(Update from a month & a half later - it took a while, but our baby was finally deemed well enough to go to the Hope Center with her momma in the middle of December! It was a long time to be in the hospital, but the prognosis is good now and she can grow up normally. Also, we all got to snuggle her for a long time. No pictures, but one evening during rounds, she just fell asleep on my shoulder in about 20 seconds. She reminds me of my niece, Pinkie.) 

This is not the patient I was talking about, but she has the same fun & enthusiastic spirit.
Also, who doesn't like a happy baby photo?!
*a photo from Mercy Ships Guinea 2018 archives

As an OR Nurse Team Leader, I get to visit with my patient the night before surgery (evening rounds). This is mainly to make sure all the paperwork is in order and they will be ready for surgery the next day. I also help the surgeons getting the consents for surgery right and a few other things (that I have not quite figured out yet!). Monday night, I met one charming little guy – he was showing me his drawing and wanting whatever I had or anybody else had – typical toddler. Tuesday afternoon, my translator and I were able to “bribe” him into not crying for his dad and coming with us by letting him keep his toys. Then, we exchanged them for his anesthetic oxygen mask swabbed with a little bubble gum flavor. Tuesday evening after surgery, he was up playing with his dad on his bed – so great to see!

I mentioned our translator – we have several translators in the OR and then lots spread throughout the hospital. We have had a couple of days where we thought our translators might not be able to make it onto the ship (they are day-workers, so as native Guineans, they live in town). If that had happened, our surgical cases would have to be delayed or even cancelled. They are invaluable!

An old photo, but here are our translators & me from Benin in 2016

There are so many languages spoken here in Guinea. French is the official language, but it is usually taught in school, so many of our patients speak their own languages. Some I can think of (and spell!) are Fullah & Susu. Each translator has his or her own language strengths, so we have to make sure we ask the right person to come to the ward to pick up our patients. They are all wonderful. Today, one sang to our baby girl patient and another played keep-away with the anesthesia mask – it makes it pretty irresistible to those little kids when they can’t have it!

One of our ward translators & a baby recovering from cleft lip/palate surgery
*a photo from Mercy Ships Guinea 2018 archives

Again, this is where I’ll end. Thank you all so much for praying for and supporting me! 
Much love,
PS: A disclaimer: Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. ~ Amaanda

PSS: Wednesday night – I was just down in A Ward getting ready for tomorrow and all our patients are up an practically running around. God is so good!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mercy Ships Updates 0.3 & 1.1 – and more adventures leading up to the flight & the first week of the first month

3 November 2018

Hello All!

It has been almost a week since I arrived on the Africa Mercy! And I’m so glad to be here. But more on that later…

This past month has been a rather crazy one! As you may know, my lovely parents drove all the way down to San Diego in early October, packed my oodles of stuff (we did not use such a cute description during the actual packing…), and then the three of us drove through California, Nevada, Oregon all the way up to Moscow, Idaho. Very long days!

Day one - follow the little white box - very slowly
Isn't Nevada amazing? (I felt like I was living 'Cars'...)

Day two - more Nevada
I did mention I was driving VERY slowly, right?

Still Day two, still more Nevada
- but still so amazing!
A strange clown motel - still haunts me...

The worst part was saying goodbye to my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew. I will miss them so much. Still a little teary thinking about it… thank goodness for wifi and internet here on the Africa Mercy!

Missing San Diego just a bit... my last even was a picnic on the beach

The most exciting day (or rather night) had to be when we had mechanical difficulties on the road between Winnemuca, Nevada and Caldwell, Idaho. We were stuck on the side of the road, in the middle of the night, without cell service or any living person visible for miles – and it was about 16 degrees Fahrenheit! (I thought I was just SoCal soft, but the chill was real!). Anyway, we found safety thanks to my dad’s amazing skills with nothing much to work with (MacGyver, I guess) in the tiny town of Jordan Valley, Oregon. I will always think fondly of Jordan Valley – a warm, comfy motel room with morning windows opening on golden fields, sunny blues skies and red rock mountains. That is not even mentioning a mechanic who fixed everything! And a good breakfast at the local diner. It was the promise land God had for us on that Sunday night – so aptly named. My aunt and uncle drove down the next morning from Caldwell and brought us the parts we needed. We got to visit while everything was being fixed and then they sent us on our way. Finally, we arrived in Moscow late that night. We were very tired.

The next eleven days were spent in quite the flurry of activities – filling my storage unit (still had room for my car!), dealing with all the loose ends of life and moving (I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time on hold), seeing friends, drinking coffee, going to my parent’s parish group, enjoying the glorious, sunny fall Moscow provided, and figuring out how and what to pack for Guinea (probably even more frustrating to me than the packing of my apartment). We even managed to go the Moscow firemen’s pancake feed! It was homecoming at most of the local colleges and universities, so it was a bit crowded in town. I also went with a friend to our nursing school’s 50 year celebration! My college church let me give a presentation on Mercy Ships and my coming time and role here – it was encouraging and I’m so glad I was able to share.

Moscow in it's fall beauty!

Finally, October 26 came around and my flight out of Moscow to Seattle was set to fly at 7pm(ish). Frantically packing, I had about 20 minutes to get there in time for check-in! Then my flight was delayed (hurray!), so Mom, Dad and I got to eat dinner with less panicked hearts. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of my flight delays…

Relief! We just have to wait now...

On my way to the Africa Mercy!
I'm going to need this coffee...
To make a long story short(er), I did make it to Seattle, to my hotel, then back to the SeaTac airport, just to wait for another 4 hours for my first flight to Newark, then delayed at Newark, then delayed in the air over the Ivory Coast (some kind of VIPs prevented us from landing and it turns out my stomach does not like going in circles in the air for 30 minutes…), finally landing, getting stuck in the check-in area of the Abidjan airport for 5 or so hours, at last being allowed to check in (yay! – there were bathrooms, internet and water then!), having that flight delayed…

Eventually, I arrived in Conakry, Guinea, was picked up by the Purser of the Africa Mercy, got through customs and all without much delay, and ended up on the ship by about 10:30pm 28 October (got to change the date arrangement now – I’m in another country!). I was so tired, without luggage (it got lost between the Ivory Coast and Guinea), stinky and all that – but it already felt like home!
So, now I’m here on the Africa Mercy and have just finished my first week of work. Still tired, but still happy to be home. Also, our OR team got to fix about 13 kiddos this week! And they are all mostly up and running around the wards or have gone home already. Next week looks to be a little more challenging for the whole Pediatric General surgery team. I’m preparing by laying low this weekend. There are lots of adventures to be had here in Conakry and the surrounding area, so I hope to be ready to explore next weekend. In the meantime, I’ll finish my training as the General Surgery Team Leader this week and take my first training shift being the primary (i.e., most responsible nurse)  call on this Thursday. It’s a little daunting, but the support of my supervisors and friends (and pretty much the whole OR team) is there, so I think – definitely with God’s guidance – this next week should go well.

Clean, but starving, just off the plane.

This is where I’ll end. Thank you all so much for praying for and supporting me! Thank you for all the kind emails this week – it has been so encouraging. It is amazing to get to work within this community who love and serve God in serving the people of Guinea. And to know all of you are on the other side of the world in this same community (of sorts) praying for me is even better!

Much love,

PS: A disclaimer (because I need to and this should have been on all my other communications, too, but I forgot): Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. ~ Amaanda 

PSS: Also, no Guinea pictures yet! Next week (or month), I'll try to be better!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mercy Ships Update 0.2 - Still in pre-flight planning mode


Hello All!

Did you know how hard it is to live a normal, confusing life, working your regular job, and concurrently gearing up to move all your material possessions across the country and THEN jump on a plane for another amazing move to Africa? I didn’t, and let me tell you, it’s tough! I did not realize - as I made my initial plans even four months ago - quite how much I had bitten off. However, though exhausted, I am so excited! This is definitely a time of stretching, learning and constantly facing my own weaknesses and needing to turn to my Savior’s strength.
My sister and her family are going through a few things lately, too, so while we would both rather be in easier circumstances, we are thankful to be able to understand and support each other. We were just talking about how even when you are in difficult circumstances, we also know that God will bring us to His joy and provisions in the end. But, that does not mean that it will be easy in the middle…
Right after Katie and I had one such conversation, I was listening to my Bible as I got ready for bed, and I “just happened” to be reading in Genesis about Abram coming to the Promise land for the first time. At this point, he was not even Abraham, he and Sarai did have the promise of a home and family (but no child yet), Abram had to rescue Lot, had lied about Sarai being his wife to the king of Egypt, and Sarai had just given Abram Hagar to bear him a son in her place – talk about a lot of crazy stuff going on! On our end, we know the story and that God does in fact provide Isaac, the Promise land and offspring to rival the number of the stars, but there is still so much ahead of Abram and Sarai. Nevertheless, God is faithful and he has given us his word so we can see his love, work and faithfulness in the lives of so many of his children that have come before us. For that I am thankful!
Other than thinking on the faithfulness of God and being a bit overwhelmed, I have some good news! First, things are lining up in place for my move back home to Idaho! As I mentioned in an earlier post, my lovely parents found me not only a great storage unit, but also the use of their good friend’s trailer from Grand American Piano! In early October, Mom and Dad will drive down to San Diego, visit with grand babies, and then move me back to Moscow. They are the best parents!
Second, on learning that Guinea is quite conservative, I have been sewing appropriate clothing for my trip. I like sewing and it is surprisingly rare to find such clothes ready-made. That task is about complete, so I can now move on to the “joys” of ... packing, finishing work at the hospital well and working on raising the rest of my financial support.
So, if you have been considering donating to my work with Mercy Ships, now is the time to do so! My flight to Conakry leaves on October 27 out of Seattle.

OR day crew in Benin 

Prayer requests:
1.   That I would have a good attitude at work and continue strong in caring for my patients. The scrub hats that mom and I made have sold well to my co-workers. I love seeing all the beautiful fabrics/hats in the hallways.  I pray that the hats will remind them of the Lord's goodness to themselves and to the people of Guinea.
2.   That my health insurance would be gracious and cover my Malarone malaria medication.    I had a reaction to the cheaper doxycycline last time, so I need to take this one.
3.   That my mom and dad would remain in good health. They are instrumental in my move and I really don’t want them to miss out on playing with the grand babies (my niece and nephew)!
4.   That I would be able to figure out my post-Mercy Ships flights – I have (another) amazing opportunity to go visit my cousins and some friends in Europe on my way back to the US.
5.   That God would continue to provide financial support for my trip to Conakry.  Having worked since I was about 13, there is a bit of panic knowing that I will be not be making money for up to 6 months!

Thank you all so much for reading this second missive! I am so thankful for all of you – you, your prayers and financial support. I'll keep you updated!

Much love,

Friday, August 31, 2018

Mercy Ships Update 0.1


Just a quick update on my Mercy Ships trip preparations.

Two big things happened this week (otherwise known as Prayers Answered):

1. I am almost 50% funded! Thank you all so much!

2. My parents' friend is lending us his trailer! Now, I will be able to move my household goods from California to Idaho with both style and economical savvy (i.e.: just have to pay gas). Aren't parents the best? And their friends? I think so.

Unrelated but fun, here are a few photos from my last trip with Mercy Ships:

One of my first nights in Benin

A good place to read - and my feet

Good friends in the OR

Monday, August 27, 2018

Mercy Ships Update 0.0 (i.e., almost the very beginning)

Such exciting news! God willing, at the end of October, I am going to Cornakry, Guinea, West Africa. As many of you know, a couple of years ago, I volunteered in the operating room of the Africa Mercy – the current ship in the Mercy Ships fleet - in Benin, West Africa. This was my first glimpse into this world and it was challenging, but I loved my time! However, this time it is not for just three weeks but for four whole months. I am so thankful to be given another, such amazing opportunity!
As a floating hospital ship/city, the Africa Mercy travels around the coast of Africa, providing free medical care and needed surgeries to people who otherwise have limited access to medical aide. The organization has been around since 1978 and provided over 82,000 free surgeries!
They bring the Gospel through immensely practical ways. In just my time there, the Operating Room teams brought the beginning of healing to little girls and grown men, baby boys and women like me. These were people whose accidents, illnesses or deformities made normal life almost impossible and have often made them outcasts within their families and in their own villages. One thing that I especially love about Mercy Ships is that, in addition to the actual surgery, they provide pre-treatment and follow-up care so people can return to their lives better off. Isn’t that just amazing?!
It is really hard to describe in mere words on a page, but take a peek at the cool video Mercy Ships has at the end of the page. It will give you a glimpse of the hope and healing the Mercy Ships ministry brings in the name of Jesus. You can also read even more on their web page:
To top it all off, the Africa Mercy is fully staffed with a complete volunteer crew – butcher, baker, candlestick maker, captain, surgeon and barista! As a crew member, I am responsible for 100% of my expenses for this trip – flights back and forth, room and board, insurance, and general needs. Overall, my expenses will be close to $6,000. As crew members cover our own costs, Mercy Ships is able to direct all of the other donations it receives for the care of patients in the current field service.
Would you consider joining me on the Mercy Ships OR team? With your support – both financially and with prayer – you can help us care for the people of Guinea.

Much love, 

This is my first-ish blog post about this and I would love to keep you all in the loop with periodic updates over the coming months. I would love to hear your comments! I also will be posting on Instagram @amk_goes_to_africa (I'll figure out how to link that soon...)

Recent updates (written August 19, 2018), accomplishments and answers to prayer - i.e., exciting stuff!
1. Last week I bought my ticket from Seattle to Conakry.
2. Mom and Dad found me a great storage unit in Lewiston - it will even hold my car!
3. I'm selling OR scrub hats to my co-workers - Mom generously made them for me - as a fundraiser. So far, they have sold like hot-cakes and I get to see my friends wearing such lovely fabrics - win-win for me!
4. Y'all have donated $1,450! Just under a quarter of the way there! 
5. More to come...
Here are a few prayer requests for the next few weeks.
1. That I would finish well here at work in San Diego - it has been a bit stressful here.
2. That I be able to finish up my extensive sewing projects for my trip.
3. That I would be able to be fully funded for my trip.
4. That I would be able to prioritize my tasks for all the things I am doing - so much to think about and now I actually have to do...

If you would like to donate under my name, there are several ways to do so.
1. Via my donor page online:

2. Via phone or check to Mercy Ships using my Designation Code #5038 and my name (Amaanda Keyes)
Mercy Ships
PO Box 2020
Garden Valley, Texas 75771
Tel: 903-939-7000
Tel: 1-800-772-7447 
3. Via check, Venmo, cash, etc. to me directly (alas, this is not tax deductible - but the other ways are - but still a pleasant surprise!) - just let me know if you would like to take this route.

Again, much love to you all! Thank you for reading this missive and praying for me!
Love, A

Friday, August 24, 2018

And then 6+ years later...

Hello Again!

This is a very sparse blog and even so, it has been a while since I posted here...
Over 6 years.
A lot has changed - I have a new couch and I think I might have one plant left...
But a lot has not - still love my IKEA bookshelves, my books, fabric and color.
So, it's still me.
In another city.
About to move - again.
To Africa. Specifically, West Africa, Guinea, Conakry, in a port on the Africa Mercy.
More on that to come...

Much love,