Keith R. Brinkman serving with Mercy Ships. This is another way for me to communicate with you all what is happening. I hope you enjoy seeing the photos and entries.

Monday, June 27, 2011

KRB Update - HOPE Center

KRB Update #2168 HOPE Center
Keith R. Brinkman Sierra Leone June 23, 2011

Greetings from Sierra Leone, West Africa. When Mercy Ships arrives in a country, potential patient screenings are organized at various locations (in the port city and upcountry) and dates throughout the country. For Sierra Leone, the upcountry screenings were done in January by a team of ten at five provincial governmental hospitals – Koidu, Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Kabala. Patients who are near the port area can easily travel to the ship; others that live farther away typically have greater travel obstacles, which hinder their ability to travel to the ship and they may be ones with greater needs. To help alleviate our crunch with ward beds and to care for those from outside the port city, Mercy Ships developed the HOPE Center concept to provide housing for patients and caregivers (usually for those patients 15 years of age or younger) in a secure location near the ship. This was started during our field service in Cotonou, Benin in ’09.

Pre-operative patients typically arrive at the HOPE Center a couple days prior to surgery. While at the Center, patients and caregiver are provided with nutritious meals, strengthening the patient for the upcoming surgery. Both have their own mattress and are protected by mosquito nets to prevent malaria. After the patient has transferred to the ship, they will have their surgery on the ship and their time of recovery in the Hospital wards. There comes the time when the intensive, around the clock care, is not always needed. It is at this time for those who live far away, they can move to the nearby HOPE Center. Importantly, the Center frees up precious bed space in the hospital ward on the ship. In the past, many individuals requiring outpatient care had to stay in the ward because it was not possible for them to travel to and from the ship and home. If a bed is being used by a patient requiring minimal care, that bed is unavailable for a new surgical candidate.

In Sierra Leone, our amazing Advance Team was able to secure a portion of the Seafarer’s Club, located next to the port, to use as the HOPE Center. Renovations were made and now the Center has a capacity of 40 patient beds and 40 caregiver beds – though we have purchased extra 20 mattresses as sometimes our numbers have been closer to 100 at the Center. Some of our crew coordinate the activities there along with a great group of local dayvolunteers. We offer Community Health teaching on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays afternoons on various subjects.

I greatly appreciate at how close the HOPE Center is located as it gives me the opportunity to take the 10 minute walk – just out the gate, up the hill a bit and then to the right into the compound. I go regularly if not daily and visit with some of the patients that I have established relationships with while they have been on the ship in the Hospital. We talk and visit together, see how they are, play games, break up little fights with the boys, sing and just deepen relationship together. If, I took the time to list the various ones and about their lives and circumstances, this update would be way too long. I have connected well with many of our patients from Koidu which is in the district of Kono and far from Freetown. While visiting those that I know, I have met others who are yet to come to the ship for their surgery. With them, I share that “I will see you when you are on board”.

Prayer Requests: ** Health (not just physical, but also emotional and spiritual health) for our patients at the HOPE Center as they recover and prepare to return to their homes. ** For the surgeons we need as we have weeks without a general surgeon – and we have many patients on waiting lists.

Serving Together, Keith Email:

Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Schedule: Sierra Leone Field Service February 27 – December 8, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

KRB Update #2167 Hosting the President & Vice President of the nation of Sierra Leone

Keith R. Brinkman
Hosting the President & Vice President
June 9, 2011

After receiving notification of their acceptance of our invitation for a visit to the Africa Mercy, my mind started to race. As for this special event, the Managing Director asked me to be the Protocol Officer. I wasn’t the first choice as others have more experience than I do in West Africa. In the past, I have been involved in various ways for these VIP events. So I recalled aspects of our past successes and lessons learned.

Though in this case my focus was more on the areas related to protocol: seating arrangement, invited guests, the receiving line, how much time they will have for the visit, connection with patients in the hospital, presentation of
the gift, length of time for him to respond, tour route options, refreshment preferences, salutations/titles, assist those giving speeches with important information, etc.. We all worked well together here on board – what a team! I am very grateful for the assistance of State Chief of Protocol for His Excellency, Mr. Kpukumu. He was friendly and helpful, answering my questions, reviewing our proposed agenda and offering input and suggestions. I wasn’t sure if their protocol and security would allow both the President and the Vice President to visit at the same time, but it does and they thought that would be good for them and good for us at the same time.

We extended a special invitation to a former maxillofacial patient named Hawa from Sierra Leone to come and to hand the flowers to the President as he exited his vehicle. During the speech by our Chief Medical Officer in our International Lounge, he shared more of Hawa’s story including pre- and post-operative photos and she was invited to the front to greet the President and the Vice President.

After doing research about both men, I learned that the Vice President comes from Kono district and the President from the Makeni area. I had the thought that it would be great and more personal for them to meet patients from their home town areas. Working with the charge nurses, we approached the caregivers and patients to ensure they were ok with our plan and all were. How cool to meet the leaders of your nation! Though, some were a little shy with the large party coming in all at the same time.

When the time came for the President’s response, he came to the podium and it appears laid his written speech to the side and just spoke from his heart and what he felt coming on board and seeing the patients and all. We are very grateful as the President is the one who through the protocol invited us to his nation.
The big event took place on Friday, May 27th a couple hours later than planned, but they were at the State House conducting affairs of the government. It was a success and involved dozens of people from all departments on the ship doing their part and from the staff of the President and Vice President. Their visit coincided with our International Board of Director’s annual meeting on board, though regretfully not all of the board members arrived in time for the event, some were en route as the event took place. Though, we were able to involve the International Board Members in the receiving line, official welcomes and a time of refreshments with the President at the end. I am grateful that all went well.

Prayer Request: For the nation and the people of Sierra Leone.

Serving Together,


Mail: Keith R. Brinkman, Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, TX 75771 USA

Schedule: Sierra Leone Field Service February 27 – December 8, 2011