Screenings are what we do in order to get people from off the streets of Africa, onto our operating tables in the OR. Thousands of people, with all kinds of problems (from a stomach ache, to a GIANT tumor) show up at these screenings in order to get help. Obviously we can’t help everyone, so we screen in order to weed out those who we can help…mostly the ones with serious problems. Usually Mercy Ships has one or two big screenings per outreach…but due to the elections, we are not allowed to have large gatherings, so we’ve been having several small screenings. And I got to go help yesterday!
Around 6:30, we packed up two cars, as well as some PB&J sandwiches, and headed off to one of our many screening sights. When we arrived, there were at least 200 people in a mob waiting for us to come. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our translators & led to a small building where we were able to put our stuff down. After putting on bright yellow Mercy Ship vests, we were given the task of turning the mob of anxious people into a nice, calm, single file line. Within twenty minutes, thanks to our amazing translators, we had a single file line looping all the way to the gate we entered.
While attempting to help with the line, several people were coming up to me, pulling their pants down to show me their tumors or anything else wrong with them. I noticed right away that they all assumed I was a nurse…so I simply had to tell them (slowly), “I’m not a nurse, but the nurses over there will see everyone in line.” And to those with teeth problems or eye problems, we had to direct them to the dental & eye clinics to weed them out of the crowd.
I have gotten to see several patients after they have had their surgery, but seeing all of the people prior to surgery was a whole different story. Half of the people in line had been out casted from their community because of a giant lump on their face, or because their feet are turned inside out. And Mercy Ships is their last hope to regain a normal life again. It was hard to see people turned away because we can’t fix everything, but we rejoiced with those who found out that their lives may be changed forever! My heart really went out to one little boy whose legs looked like they had been put on backwards, and his knees were bent the wrong way. His father had to stand in line for him because it was too painful for him to stand. Before he got called up to be screened, I went and sat next to him under the tree he was sitting by…and I tried my best to use my French. Although we weren’t able to communicate that well, it was great to just see him smile (whether he was smiling because my French was awful or because he was just happy, I’m not quite sure ;D)
About half way through, I found some bubbles in one of the bags that we brought. The little kids waiting in line looked bored, so I walked through the line blowing bubbles. When I got to the children, I would bend down and show them how to blow air through their lips, then I would hold the bubble wand in front of them and they would attempt to blow bubbles. Some children would blow air too hard, so no bubbles would come out…so we would try again and again until one bubble came out then everyone around them would clap! I soon found out that it wasn’t only the kids who liked blowing bubbles…the grownups all wanted to try it! So I ended up going through the entire line, giving them all a chance to blow bubbles. It was great to see smiles on all their faces : )
By the time I reached the end of the line, I was out of bubbles anyways. And the line had shortened down a ton, so within the next half an hour, we had seen every single person there & another screening day had gone successfully. On our way out, the little boy that I sat next to in the beginning of the day was running his best towards the car with the hugest smile on his face, waving good bye. He’s going to be a patient…that alone almost brought tears to my eyes.