Friday, August 26, 2011


On Wednesday this week, I had the opportunity to watch surgery. Crew are allowed to view surgery one slot per field service. This means you can either sign up to view from 9:30-12ish or 1:30-5ish. You're normally unable to find out what you'll be viewing before you get to the OR, but I have connections:) I have been wanting to see a cleft-related surgery since the last time I was on board- I just didn't have the guts last time. I felt like it was something I really really wanted to do since I have a cleft lip and palate, and when on earth do you EVER get to view the same kind of surgery YOU had?

Wednesday morning, I went down to the OR office to be sure I'd be seeing a cleft surgery of some sort. I was honestly not very interested in seeing anything else. I've seen eye surgery, I wasn't too keen on seeing a hernia surgery- I'd seen an umbilical hernia before and just had 0 desire to see the other kind. I went down and as it turned out, there was a man with a cleft palate who was supposed to have surgery in the morning, but was fed breakfast, so he was unable to be seen until the afternoon. Up until I heard that, I was pretty sure I just didn't want to watch surgery, but I got pretty excited after I heard this news.
Around 1:15, I started getting myself together. I had to wear scrubs, then at 1:30, I went down and they gave me little shoe covers, a hair cover and protective glasses. I felt ridiculous- but once I saw everyone else, I didn't feel so bad. I was given the lo-down of the rules- the biggest of which included NOT TOUCHING anything blue- at all... so you had to dodge everything and be VERY aware, and no talking unless you're asked something or you can do so quietly.
I entered the OR, and they stood me up on a stool. Honestly, being on the other side of the table only a few months ago made this extremely surreal and it honestly scared me for a minute. I mean- I'm so used to being the one going under, so when I saw this man, I started remembering how it feels to be going under and coming out of surgery... not a good feeling. But after getting dizzy for a minute and getting a flash of heat up my body, I pulled it together, and they got going. All I can say is IT WAS SO COOL!!!!!!!!

Dr. Gary has been doing surgery on board for 20+ years and so it was such an incredible experience seeing him operate on this young man who had a unilateral cleft palate and a poorly repaired cleft lip. Incredible the things that you can do to solve different problems. He used fatty tissue from the cheeks to help repair the palate, which was a very complex procedure. He told me that he would try it and if it didn't work, he would then have to do a pharyngioplasty, where he takes part of the back of the throat to repair the palate. I had this done, but mainly for speech purposes- when you remove this piece of tissue, it allows a cleft patient to speak more clearly. However, Dr. Gary explained that it is not as useful to West African patients. Mine was a part of a series of surgeries over my life, but this man had one shot at this surgery, so Dr. Gary was trying to do all he could to help his speech without follow-up procedures. Dr. Gary was a great teacher- he brought me over a few times to view up close what was going on and would show me everything he did and was getting ready to do- I just couldn't touch the blue... that's easier said than done;)

It was also great because my friend Allison was the circulating nurse- who is not scrubbed in and helps get supplies to the nurses helping the surgeon in a sanitary way and also helps those viewing by making sure they don't pass out, and takes pictures for them. It was great having her because I could ask her all kinds of questions that I knew she knew the answers to, and she understood my high interest in the surgery. The other nurses had no idea why I was so keen on seeing the surgery, but Dr. Gary has worked with my mom- so he totally knew. But- it was great having a friend there to help me understand everything.
After about an hour, my friend Seth, who is the scheduling coordinator for the OR, came through and asked if I minded going to another room while a couple came to view the surgery. I was a little sad- but had him promise that I'd get to see the end. Honestly, it was probably better- I think I needed a break. He brought me to another room and warned me before I went in that it was a little more of a bloody procedure. I was brought into a room with a woman who was getting a goiter removed. Goiters are extremely prevalent in West Africa due to certain toxins in uncooked foods- like cassava, which is a huge staple in Sierra Leone- which cause certain things to occur in the thyroid, which causes it to enlarge. In our diet, we have iodized salt, which helps break down these enzymes, but here it is too expensive for them to include in their everyday diet.

I was in the operating room with the lovely Lord Ian Mccoll as well as Dr. Kelly, who is only here for a few weeks. Lord Ian comes frequently, but doesn't stay too long- he's on the international board and is a well known surgeon- he's a real treat to have around. At first I was at the foot of the bed and couldn't see too much, but after a while, I was brought to the head of the bed an boy was there a good view. They had started to tear away any tissue they could, but had to isolate the veins and arteries so that they did not cause too much bleeding. They found the veins, tied them off on both the end of the thyroid and the woman's neck, then cut in between the ties. By the time I left, the whole right side was free, and they were close to removing the thyroid all together. It was awesome. There was quite a bit of blood, but once I got over that, it was totally cool.
I was then brought back into Dr. Gary's room to watch the final closure of the palate, as well as the lip repair. Super super super super cool... I'm so glad I got this experience- it was absolutely incredible.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Strange Connections

One of my favorite down-time activities on the ship, well really in life in general, is watching tv shows. I love good tv shows- especially those that have great character development. Unfortunately, I've learned most of the shows(though certainly not all) that deserve a good long run, get cut short at the beginning of their greatness. For example: Dead Like Me(cancelled after 2 seasons, made mini-movie, which didn't do it justice), Pushing Daisies(got some kind of warning but were on the wrong network for their type of show, and crammed all you need to know into the last episode), and most of all Firefly(1 season, they aired them out of order and in competition with 2 other shows, made the movie Serenity, which was fantastic, but deserved a full run).
While watching all of these lovely shows, I've noticed strange connections between all of them... let's see if you follow...

Let's start at the top where all of the connections started in my head. My friend Annie first got me into Firefly because Joss Whedon is the creator, who also happened to be the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I was watching while i was home. Let's go from there...
Firefly has an actress, Summer Glau, whose character name was indeed Summer and is very disturbed. She played a character in the show The 4400(very cool- check it out) named Tess, who was a paranoid schizophrenic and receives an ability of persuasion.... interesting combination to say the least...

Now for all of the 4400 connections I've found...
Joel Gretsch played a leading agent in The 4400 named Tom Baldwin, but also made a guest appearance on the show NCIS(Naval Criminal Investigative Services for any of you who dont know..).
Then, there is an actress whose name is Megalyn Echikunwoke, whose character is named Isabel Tyler. Megalyn is also a leading actress in the first season of 24 as Senator Palmers daughter, Nicole.... we'll get back to 24 in a few minutes...
The last 4400 connection I've found(thus far at least) is that one of their creators, Rene Echevarria also wrote a few episodes for the oh so wonderful show, Castle.

Take a wild guess what show is next.... you got it... Castle....
The wonderful world of a strong female detective who is forced to take on Rick Castle, best-selling mystery writer, as a shadow... so great:)
Well firstly- Nathan Fillion, who is the star of castle, as the one and only Rick Castle, was also the star of Firefly as Captain Malcom 'Mal' Reynolds. Brilliant.
Then comes Nathan's random off-handed comments while playing Rick Castle about wanting to be a space cowboy, or his space cowboy costume that he wore for Halloween one year. As well as his comments about Buffy the Vampire slayer... can I say Joss Whedon plugs? ;)
Castle has also said something along the lines of, "oh... that's so Jack Bauer of you..."

Bringing us to our next show.... 24
24 season 2 contains 2 lovely actresses, Laura Harris and Sarah Wynter, who play sisters. Funny story... Laura Harris plays the oh so fabulous Daisy Adaire in Dead Like Me. Now for the kicker... She was unable to film the 'Dead Like Me:Life After Death" movie, so Sarah Wynter was signed on to take over as Daisy... and, with all honesty, did a pretty poor job. I think if she had made the character her own, it would've been fine- maybe even great, but she tried too hard to be Laura, which bit her in the behind. Funny how 8 years after 24, Sarah was asked to be Laura's replacement. Sure they can pass as sisters, they actually make great sisters, but replacements? Not so much. 24 did redeem my faith in Sarah, though.
Sarah Wynter on the top left, and Laura Harris on the bottom.

24 also contains an Agent Baker, who happens to be Daniel Dae Kim....who is none other than Jin from lost!!!! How cool is that?

Now our Lost references will launch us into the world of NCIS...
Lost's John Locke, aka Terry O'Quinn, made a guest apperance in NCIS, as did Lost's Sawyer, aka Josh Holloway.
Last but not least, the final connection. NCIS' Pauley Perette, known as Abby, the forensic specialist, was also on 24 for one episode as a woman trying to help Terry Bauer get away.

I hope you found all of this 1/2 as interesting as I did... :) for any of you who got through that... I owe you a cupcake;)

Monday, August 1, 2011

New and Improved!

Lovely readers,
I just wanted to make you aware of a change in the way things with my fundraising. The people who help us out here at Mercy Ships by making us sweet sites to help get donations have created a more user-friendly and fun fundraising site. I hope you'll check it out and contribute to my goals to get my trip home paid for!

Thanks guys. I promise to post something really interesting here in the near future.... ;)