Sunday, 6 April 2008

I am not a machine

I am not a machine…  I make the mistake of trying sometimes but I am glad to say that I am not.

Working in the position as Ward Supervisor certainly has potential to more than fill my time and pull me in all sorts of directions. It’s a tricky weavery of self inflicted fluid boundaries that unsurprisingly fail to serve their purpose. Solid boundaries seem hard to come by in people pleasers like me. Living and working within 100 footsteps of each other is always going to be a challenge and it’s over the last few weeks that I have been forced to look more at why I am here. It’s a relentless battle where demand constantly exceeds supply and if you’re not careful, weariness ensues.

Since we arrived back in Monrovia, we’ve had over 20 new nurses arrive to join our existing team of 20 something nurses who have been with us on the ward during the last year. It’s always a challenge as people come from so many different countries as we all settle in and find out that our way isn’t necessarily the only way. We’ve also had our huge screening back in February where a few hundred people hoping for an appointment for surgery gathered at the national stadium. At the moment we’re doing maxilla-facial, orthopaedic, general, gynae and eye surgery and despite it being the 4th year running that the ship is here, the surgery schedule is almost full for the next 10 months. The need is just so great and the depth of poverty here still hasn’t quite sunk in. Screening is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. There’s lots of people we can’t help so that’s always hard. It’s also an exciting day as you see people whose lives are just about to radically change. I love it, love it, love it! Just look at this little one….

Work, work, work. People, people, people. It’s constant and I am noticing the knock on effect is that I am not always that good at being ‘in the moment’. I know it means I’m missing out on some of the joy, wonder and awe that it is to do life with some beautiful people  - colleagues, friends and patients - from all over the world. I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to be fully present. So, I’m trying to take a stand against all this clever trickery. That’s what it is. I’m here for a purpose and clever enemy number one tricks me into a multitude of other ‘good deeds’ that distract me from my sole focus and in the meantime, wears me out. It’s time to stop and take some lessons from the natural rhythms of creation. Seasons are not quite so defined here in Liberia so the example isn’t perfect, but there is still very much a time for creating, growing, producing and a time of resting and re-fuelling.  So it finally dawned on me that taking a day of complete rest is not only a good idea, it’s part of God’s amazing plan to rescue us from being human doings and call us back to be human beings. I’m enjoying taking a day of winter hibernation at the weekend to just be. Some call it being antisocial (!) – I know and feel that there’s more to it than that.

Please pray for our crew as we seek to do what God has called us to do and for protection from weariness when there are things that lay heavy on our hearts that we just can’t take on. There was a 10 year old boy who came to the ship the other day who was in acute heart failure. Treating people for a condition like this is a possibility for us – but comes at a cost of not having space to house the patients we have already offered surgery to. It also opens up the doors for hundreds of patients to turn up the following day with other medical complaints. News travels fast in a country where there are less than 40 doctors to serve a whole nation. We had to turn him away, knowing he was facing almost certain death. We’re a specialised surgical centre and medical treatment is just not something we can do. It’s heavy stuff and takes me back to looking at why we are here and knowing it’s not only ok, but it’s also right to say no sometimes. Fixing every problem we are faced with is tempting, but is also foolish. Sounds harsh doesn’t it? It feels it too but we’re not machines, we can’t do it all. Pray we would all find ways of placing some solid boundaries in all that we do.

All these lessons I’m sharing are good ones… I think/hope I’m learning to become less of a machine. I continue to love being here. I continue to miss you all like crazy. I continue to know I’m in the right place.


Thanks lovely people for your friendship and support. I always love to hear from you… keep the news coming. Love always, KWW

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