where I need to be at this time,” she tells me without
Jane is the team leader for the ward nurses—a team
leader who is always there, always passionate. I first
met her at screening, where she saw all the patients
with me, not because she had to, but because she
wanted to. That allowed her to know the patients
who would be in my care from the first day. She will
follow them, facilitate their recovery, decide their disposition, arrange their follow-up, and make sure they
get home safely.
There is no such thing as outpatient surgery on
the ship. Patients come from all over the country and
are housed in the Hope Center, essentially a hotel run
by Mercy Ships for patients to stay in while they’re
waiting for surgery or recovering from an operation.
Every patient stays at least one night on the ship before
surgery and one night after surgery. Every morning,
I round with Jane and check on all the patients. Jane
and I make a plan for the day for each patient, and
she sees it through. Every afternoon, when we’re finished in the OR, I round again with her to visit all the
patients who will be having an operation the following
day. We answer questions. We get consents. We provide reassurance. She gives me updates during the day,
whenever needed. Knowing that Jane is there is knowing that everyone will get what they need through their
full recovery—impeccable continuity of care.
Jane White is an Africa Mercy nurse and like her colleagues she is multi-talented and multi-gifted. She has
decided to put these talents and gifts at the service of
those who need her most.
The final dispatch: A vision of mercy
Dr. Chris Elliott, whom I mention earlier, and I are very
different surgeons. He is a military general surgeon
who has served in war zones and come face to face with
raw violence. I am a pediatric surgeon who practices in
the safe and protected environment of a children’s hospital. Despite these differences, we have found much in
common, and today there is yet another shared experience. We are both quite emotional, conflicted, and
ambivalent as we perform our last operations on the
Africa Mercy. We both miss our families, but we both
also yearn to spend more time in this healing environment, which is different from any we’ve experienced
in our medical careers.
Over the last two weeks on the ship and in its hospital, we have lived with the crew through the high-highs
and the low-lows—the triumphs and the losses—the
wars won and the battles lost. We have seen them celebrate together and mourn together, and rally to each
other’s side during the most difficult of moments.
In our OR hall meeting this morning, my voice
cracks as I thank the team who supported me through
operations on 30 children. They have done so much
for me and have taught me so much. I came here to
serve, but I have been served. I came here to give, but
in fact, it is I who was on the receiving end. I came here
to teach, but I have learned. I came here to heal, but I
have experienced healing in the most profound of ways.
I tried to share the story of the Africa Mercy but I have
only scratched the surface. You see, the real story of the
Dr. Emil and Ms. White
with patients, staff, and
parents on rounds
SEP 2016 BULLETIN American College of Surgeons