|Gifty - before|
However, sometimes they connect with you. Rewind three months to January, when we started back in our routine of visiting the HOPE Centre every second Sunday for the patients' church service. Going to the HOPE Centre is a way for our family to see the Mercy Ships mission unfold before our eyes. Patients who live far away, come to stay before being admitted to the hospital. We see the befores. Some of them are quite confronting to see - especially for our boys. Of course, once you sit with the patients, sing with them, play games with them - you don't see the "confronting" at all - you see the person.
Then later on, we see the afters when they are discharged from the hospital. It is easy when you've seen the afters, to forget about the befores - such is the radical change for so many of our patients.
|Gifty in D Ward with Joyce - her incredibly strong albino Mama|
|Wanting a photo of her "Ship Mum"|
|Much improved writing|
Hospital waiting is dead boring in Australia. People sit there for hours - staring out the window. We really are at the mercy of medical professionals - as they decide the best course of action for our loved ones. I have really come to appreciate that it is so not different on the ship - the patient is discussed with all facets of the medical community - all away from their home, their windows, in air conditioning and waiting. How boring is that?
In the HOPE Centre, they have activities like singing, board games and craft. There is a big group of people, united as they undergo a similar experience in physical transformation. Often this includes therapy - physical therapy to get seized joints working again or learning to do something for the first time. For Gifty, once her physical wounds were beginning to heal, it was time to get working on speech therapy. We don't have a speech therapist on the ship - mainly because our cleft lip and palette patients tend to be either adults who need no motivation to work on speaking correctly or babies - who if corrected early enough, won't have any speech issues. Of course, there are always a few kids that fall into the gap like Gifty. Which means they can already talk fine, thanks and they don't want to work on doing something that is hard when they could be playing with friends elsewhere. Then throw into the mix, Dieticians, who take on the task of speech therapy with a good guide; and some willing volunteers and you get the idea of how it works.
So how do you make talking fun? With bubbles of course. With straws. With funny noises. With
colouring in. And with learning letters and numbers. So that is how Gifty, Joyce and I really got to know each other. And wow did she improve. She became really careful in tracing her letters, rather than just making lots of colours all over the page. She was getting louder when she was talking, as opposed to whispering in my ear. And she was back to her normal self, running me to greet with a big hug and taking my hand, ready to learn.
And just like that, I've changed. A little girl has stolen my heart. Joyce asked for my photo one day, so she can show her family at home, who Gifty's ship Mum was - it took me a moment to realise that she meant me. I'm no longer a Mum who sees herself as very much a Mum of boys - I have had the privilege of sharing the joy of the gift that is little "Gifty".