A Life Update

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A Life Update

I'm currently spending Fourth of July at a Buddhist center in Cologne, Germany while on an overnight layover to Miami. It was the cheapest thing on Airbnb, and my bank account has dipped to numbers I'm not quite comfortable with. My life two months from now is absolutely uncertain. I have no clue what country I'll be in, where I'll live, what I'll be doing. So many seasons have ended in my life as of late, and it's quite uncomfortable. I'm squirming, uncertain, questioning. And yet, I'm at peace, knowing that what lies ahead is not up to me, but to God. Without further ado, here's an update. 

Benin Field Service

Has a year already flown by?! The older I get, the faster life passes. It's been hard to articulate all I've experienced to people back home. How can I condense everything I've seen and learned into one elevator pitch? So as I transition into this new season back in the States, I'll hold on to the memories of all the beautiful Beninoise people I've met and the transformations I've seen; hopefully I'll be able to share it accurately with others. In the meantime, above is a snippet of my last year in one minute and twenty seconds. 

Where I'm At

The ship sailed from Benin to the Canary Islands. Below are some photos of the sail:

Originally, I was going to hang out in some random hostel in the Canaries and surf until my family arrived to help me move back home. Yet, I was really unsettled about ending this season, so I booked a spot last minute (like a week before it started) on a retreat for humanitarian workers and missionaries returning "home." I've never been one to set time aside to talk about my feelings or see a therapist. I've almost prided myself in it (silly me). But man, this time, transition back hit me hard. It was such a blessing to be with other women who understood the struggle. If you're interested in doing the same, check out http://girlcatchfire.com/retreats/.

It's strange to know my life has been building up to this past year, and it's over, like a vapor. I'm not going to lie, it hurts a bit. These last few weeks, I've wanted to run back to the ship, extend for another year, in whatever capacity they'd have me. But, that would be running away, and what you love so much suddenly becomes unhealthy for you. 

Looking Ahead

So where do I go from here? Good question. Thankfully, I'm staying with Mercy Ships as their Video Producer. This past year I was on the front lines capturing all the stories, and now I get to be behind the scenes editing those stories for the public. Don't quite know how all that looks like, but for now, I know I'll be in East Texas for two months getting up to speed with the team. It makes this transition a little easier, as I get to continue working for an organization I truly love and believe in. Here's a video I collaborated on. All Dr. Odry footage was shot by me. :)

I haven't shared much about my time on this page, because there was so much happening each day. It was tough to start explaining everything I experienced. I will be reworking my website soon with fresh photos/video I shot from this past year, but if you want to hang out while I'm in Miami and/or Texas, please message me. I love talking about Mercy Ships and need new people to share my love with. A little hug and a "it'll be okay" won't hurt either. ;) 

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2017: First Two Months

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2017: First Two Months

How is it the end of February already?! Time flies so fast on the ship. It feels like the other day I was in Texas warding off chiggers. Now I'm hitting the tail end of the Benin field service! Just a recap, here are some stats from January: 

  • 302 OR visits from 285 unique patients
  • 346 X-Rays Completed
  • 1,885 Lab Tests Completed
  • 28 Units of Blood Transfusions
  • 830 Unique Dental Patients
  • 361 Outpatient Visits
  • 3,759 Eye Patient Encounters for Assessment and Treatment
  • 177 Eye Surgeries Performed
  • 1,228 Patient Encounters at the Eye Clinic

It's so gratifying to be a part of something that leaves such a lasting impact. Below is a video I edited showing you what I've been up to these last few months. I hope you enjoy. :)


Remember the photo I took that was published? I want to tell you about Mabouba. During that time, she captured the hearts of the entire Communications team. Below is an excerpt one of the writers onboard wrote.

Mabouba first came to the Africa Mercy in a peach-colored dress, a thin veil waving around her face and flapping against her swollen cheek. Her dress whipped around her frail legs as she climbed the gangway, her ascent slow and labored. That day, no one had any idea what Mabouba had been through for the last six years, nor how close her brush with death was yet to be. 

“It was in 2010 that it started,” the 23-year-old recalls. Mabouba was finishing up her junior year of high school with plans to become a midwife. Then the tumor appeared, and everything changed. For the next six years, Mabouba remained at home, staying with her elder brother in Togo while the rest of her family lived abroad in Switzerland.  

By 2014, her tumor had grown so much that it began to block Mabouba’s esophagus and windpipe. “It had become very hard for her to eat, even to breathe,” recalls her Uncle Yousef, shaking his head. “Even in the night you could hear – she was drawing air with great difficulty.” Unable to swallow more than little bits of rice, eggs and torn-up morsels of bread, the young woman began to starve. Uncles, grandparents and cousins gathered what money they could and sent Mabouba to Ghana for surgery.  

But there, calamity struck. “The doctors said they had to remove some teeth before they could remove her tumor,” recalls her Uncle Yousef. “But something went wrong, and she was bleeding, bleeding, bleeding everywhere.” He looks down as he recalls this. “She almost died.” 

With the precious money gone and her health in shards, Mabouba returned home. “Those days my mind was preoccupied with the tumor,” she recounts. “I could think of little else.”  

In January 2016 Mabouba’s father came to Togo to see her. Shocked by her condition, he contacted the Swiss Mercy Ships office and found out that the floating hospital would be coming back to Benin that very August … and, yes, Mabouba would be seen.   

Finally, on September 17th, 2016, the young woman arrived at the ship and slowly lifted her feather-light frame up the gangway. “When I finally stepped onboard, I felt immediately different.” she recounts. This moment had been six years coming. “I said to myself then, ‘I’m already healed.’”  

After nine long hours, Mabouba was finally wheeled out of the operating theater. Miracle of all miracles, her tumor was gone. 

“I remember when I woke up – I was transformed. I was a new person,” Mabouba recalls, wiping tears from her eyes. “You have saved my life, and I don’t know how to thank you. But God says when you care for your neighbor, heaven will be guaranteed for you. So I wish you heaven.”


Thank you for your love, and thank you for your support. It's been an incredible and eye opening journey. 

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Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year!

December was a whirlwind of a month. I was able to go home, refresh with family, and go back to the ship to begin the tail end of my commitment. I'm grateful for award miles that were able to get me home for the holidays. 

Coming back was bittersweet. On the one hand, I must admit I miss my family a loved ones a lot. On the other hand, I get to continue doing something I LOVE. Getting to see patients like Djazim get discharged and be able to go to school, play soccer, and dance like nobody's business is incredible. Below are some before, middle, and after shots!

In other news, I'm officially published! My photo was featured in the Lancet Medical Journal. It's surreal to see one of your photos in print, and being able to shed light to need of safe surgical care. 

As we go into the new year, I just want to say THANK YOU...for supporting me, and for believing in me. Trust me when I say, this organization is doing great things. Thanks for partnering with us. 

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Christelle - Home Visit

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Christelle - Home Visit

I went on my first home visit to document the progress of a beautiful young lady who had a cleft lip repair. She was a patient we treated in 2009, and it's truly overwhelming to see what safe surgery can do to change a life. Christelle is now able to eat properly, go to school, and get an education. 

photo by katie callow

photo by katie callow

The day started early in the morning with a three hour drive to Abomey, a city in central Benin. We met up with the village chief (uhhh I met a village chief!) so he could guide us into the village. We were greeted with smiling faces, open hearts, and true West African hospitality. The entire village came out and greeted each one of us. They gave us a tour of the compound, and put out chairs in the central area so we could all converse (through our translator of course). 

All this fanfare caused Christelle to be a little timid. Can you imagine? Everyone you know is out greeting visitors who have come from across the world to see you. To film you. To document your progress. However, behind shy little eyes was a young woman full of joy. Us yovos (white people) had to work a little harder to see her smile, so we cracked jokes, danced a little, and did everything we could so she would feel comfortable around us. Even our translator made a fool of himself to make them laugh.

photos by katie callow

After getting a tour of the village and chatting with the locals, we set up our gear and prepared for our video interview with Christelle. We weren’t expecting an audience, but alas, the entire village wanted to watch. Thank God for the village chief, who was responsible for keeping them quiet. After they understood, the entire group shushed anyone walking by. They went so far as running after a man on a motorcycle to tell him to stop. 

photo by katie callow

photo by katie callow

In West African fashion, what was supposed to take three hours ended up being an entire day in the village. Remember the hospitality I was talking about? We weren't allowed to leave until we had some ~very warm~ sodas the village provided. We asked our translator, "Must we drink these?" His response, "Yes."

All in all, it was a great day celebrating seven years of restored health and a new life.

Below are some Behind the Scenes shots. 

When the going gets tough, these are the days that make it all worth it. Nothing is more exhilarating than seeing the tangible results of what we do. I'm truly humbled and privileged to be able to document these stories. I think I have the best job on the ship, but everyone here thinks the same about theirs. 

 

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Village Adventure

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Village Adventure

A few weekends ago, we decided to drive two hours north to "hike" a "forest" (AKA walk through bushes and trees). However, we stumbled into a remote village, which led to some interesting adventures. See some wonderful pictures below :)

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