Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #6: Jane

March 9, 2016: 23:30: I sit at breakfast, about to try a new fruit. I am not exactly sure what it is – maybe a Malagasy pear or apple. But my teeth hit solid rock. Jane White, sitting across from me, shows me a sharp knife and tells me with a gentle smile “that’s what these are for.”  She splits the fruit into two and gives me a spoon. Sweet and sour all at once – passion fruit! I obviously still have a lot to learn about Africa. (Photo left: Dr. Emil with nurse Jane White at the beginning of ward rounds). 

Jane has been my shadow since my arrival.  A nurse from Northern Ireland, she is serving her second long haul on the Ship. After the first stretch, she returned home. When she wanted to return to the Ship and her hospital did not grant her the leave she needed, she resigned and came back to the Africa Mercy. “This is where I need to be at this time,” she tells me without a trickle of hesitation.

Jane is the team leader for the ward nurses – a team leader who is always there – passionately.   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 will be under 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 back 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 surgery. Every patient stays at least one night on the Ship before surgery and one night after surgery. Every morning, I round with Jane on all the patients. We make a plan for the day for each patient, and she sees it through. Every afternoon, when the OR is finished, I round again with her on all the patients who will be having surgery 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. 

Dr. Sherif Emil is a pediatric surgeon and Director of the Division of Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery at the Montreal Children's Hospital. Over the 2 weeks, he will be part of the volunteer crew of the Africa Mercy, currently docked in Tamatave, Madagascar. The Africa Mercy is the world's largest civilian hospital ship dedicated to bringing hope and healing to tens of thousands of the world's impoverished populations.  

Read more: 

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy # 1: The End of the Earth

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy # 2: Can it get any better?

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #3: The Heroes of Africa 

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #4: The Power of Camaraderie

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy #5: It Takes a Mercy Ship

Dispatches from the Africa Mercy # 7: A Vision of Mercy (Final Dispatch)