Thursday, April 5, 2018

8 things we'll remember about Cameroon (part 2/2)

Continuing where we left of from the last post (click here if you missed it), here's the rest of the list of 8 things we'll remember from our time in Cameroon!  

Before I get started though, here's a video Mercy Ships shared recently about one of our orthopedic patients from last year in Benin.  I especially like the guy doing the narration ;)

5 - Beignets!

Just for fun, these tasty snacks make it on the list of things we will remember from Cameroon!  Beignet is a french word for "donut", and in West Africa that means one of these delicious sugar-covered-fried-dough-balls.  They are particularly tasty (and very inexpensive at about $0.20 each) from several bakeries here in Douala.

Pictured here are the ones we served at "open cabin" night during the Christmas holidays- open cabins is a fun Mercy Ships tradition where families, couples and any crew who want to open their cabin and offer a snack can do so, and the rest of the crew go door to door.  It's a fun way to welcome fellow crew members into our own little homes here on board. 

6 - Mercy Ships OR Department

This field service I am continuing in my role as an operating room nurse.  We have 5 operating rooms (or "operating theatres" depending on where you are from) on the ship.  We generally do the following specialties in each room:
OR 1 - plastics surgery/orthopedic 
OR 2 - women's health/sometimes general surgery
OR 3  - maxillofacial 
OR's 4 + 5 - ophthalmic 

I spend lots of time in OR 5 with the eye team, and have also worked with orthopedics and maxfacs this year.  Here's me working in the ortho room:

Pictured below:  In the OR we celebrate "funky friday" every week and wear crazy scrubs.  We work very hard, but do so with plenty of teamwork and encouragement for one another, and we know how to have fun!

Cataract Surgery - We've had an exciting eye program here in Cameroon.  We came with the goal of treating as many patients as we can, and also providing training to surgeons who will continue to perform this type of cataract surgery once we have left.  Our long-term ophthalmic surgeon, Dr. Glenn Strauss, is an amazing surgeon and excellent teacher.  I've had the joy of watching Dr. Glenn mentor several local ophthalmic surgeons on board the ship in the past months.   In particular, we had one surgeon who came every day to work with us from September - December (Dr. Patricia, in the photo with me), and another surgeon who has come each day from January-now (Dr. Christiane).  Each of these women has become part of the heart of this team, and we wish the very best for them as they take their new skills onward to serve their country. 

Pictured to the left is a cataract patient- his left eye has scarring from a previous accident or infection and likely does not see at all.  His right eye (marked as the surgical site) is also blinded with a dense cataract.  You can see the white surface of the cataract behind the pupil.  Most of our patients became blind gradually over months or years as their cataract became more dense.  In the US and Australia, we would take cataracts out early, as soon as the vision is becoming blurry.  In Cameroon good treatment is often expensive and difficult to access, which leads to people becoming completely blind even though their condition is treatable.

7 - One of our favorite beaches in Africa

About 1 hour 45 mins drive from Douala is this stunning black-sand beach near the city of Limbe.  We spent some peaceful weekends here, and it has become one of our very favorite places.  There is a really nice, simple beach hotel that does great fresh fish dinners.  It's been a retreat for us; we visited in October and December.

Here's a fun contrast though - the above photos were taken in October.  The one to the left was taken in December, and the cloudiness in the sky is not fog, it's dust!  This is the phenomenon called the Harmattan which greets us every year from about December-March in pretty much any West African country.  During the dry season, wind blows over the Sahara desert and brings layers of dust, which leave us in an orange haze for a few months.  It's an interesting sight for a couple of days, but it's not my favorite season in West Africa.  Another side note- that it me in the photo standing on a surf board for the first time in my life. ;)  The beach is so calm, it was a fun place to try it out!

8 - Volleyball (and other sports)

As you can see in the photos below, the Port of Douala has allowed us a lot of dock space, which has been a huge blessing.  The space next to the parking lot gets used daily for different sports after work hours.  

Nick and I have particularly enjoyed playing lots of 2x2 volleyball games.  I've also started running, which is something I never thought I'd enjoy.  It's been rewarding to see my endurance build up since I started in November.

...continuing faithfully, finishing well

So, this was a bit of a random collection of thoughts/themes/bits of Cameroon.  Things we will remember (not all of equal importance, even though we de like beignets). Cameroon has grown me personally in many ways, and we've seen God's goodness to us.   After the season of doing Advance when we were pretty tired out, we saw God's faithfulness to us in so many ways and we were able to get the rest we needed.  During the last weeks of our time here, we want to finish well, celebrating the goodness of deep friendships, hard work completed, strong partnerships.  

Here's some goodness to celebrate: check out this sweet patient's progress!  Justine was one of the first patients who came on board for ortho surgery:

Thank you!

Suzanne + Nick


  1. Thank you for sharing this Suzanne!!! I love hearing how the Lord is using you and Nick for his kingdom work!! Miss you around here!! Love, Marta