2 Weeks In The Life of A Mercy Shipper
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Mercy Ships has been on the forefront of global healthcare for over 40 years. The Africa Mercy Ship is the fourth Mercy Ship to sail and it allows us to continue our mission of carrying out uncompromisingly high standards of medical care anywhere in the world. In this post I will explore what life as a Mercy Shipper really entails.
As mentioned in previous posts, I chose to serve because God called me here. But I’m not the only one! He has called every single person on board here for one reason or another. That is one of the many reasons why this is such an amazing journey to go on! My Grandma, MaryAnn Westgard, was impacted by her time on the Anastasis in 1989. She spoke about her time periodically as I grew up and it was always about how it felt to touch the lives of the forgotten. Once a year the ship goes into a period of maintenance which is necessary to ensure the ship lives on for another 15 years. This year Mercy Ships took advantage of the pandemic and did some major projects on the ship since we can’t be in field service. Major sections of the hull, the bottom of the ship, was replaced with a total of 70 tons of steel. The entire ship also got a face lift with a brand new coat of paint! These two major projects haven’t been tackled since the ship's original conversion in 2006!
Dry dock lasted 3 months but I only arrived at the tail end. There were so many engineers, plumbers, contractors, electricians running around during the first week. It was bustling with focused crew trying to make their deadlines. During dry dock the crew sleep ashore because only the essentials are running (ie. toilets, sinks). The AC and ventilation are off making the ship slightly miserable. Doing anything makes you sweat; including sitting down. In parts of the ship temperatures got up to +30℃ with very high humidity. People did their best to keep the happy vibe but you could tell that they were ready for it all to be over. Thankfully I only experienced this for one week.
The first week on board is a whirlwind of learning names, learning how to do your job, and trying to find my place in the community here. The ship is currently at around 130 crew (only because the hospital is not running) on board but it is still quite challenging to learn everyone's names and faces because of masks! When you can only see the top half of a person's face it can make it hard to distinguish them from everyone else. Especially if you don’t know them already! But you manage to find facial points to distinguish who’s who until you can get to know them all. After having long conversations with people I find that it makes it easier to recognize them in other situations.
On top of learning who all these people are you also have to learn the in’s and out’s of the job you came to do. Reception is not as important on a hospital ship. Or so I thought anyway! It is a quiet and lonely position but it’s vital that there is someone behind that desk at all times. Behind it is the fire panel and the 911 phone. Those two things are the reasons why it’s so important someone trained is behind the desk. And training for this part of the job is what took up most of my first week on board.
To do this job you must be able to stay calm during emergencies because if any of the alarms go off, I am the first to know. If someone has a medical emergency, I would be the first to know. If there is smoke in a room or hallway, I would be the first to know. It’s the receptionist's job to respond and inform the appropriate people if any of the alarms go off. That is why there is just over a week’s worth of training to do. However, training isn’t the only thing I did during my first week.
I also met a ton of people. They will introduce themselves to you and it’s amazing! It makes it super easy to get to know everyone. People are nonjudgmental here so it is easy to just walk up to them and join conversations. Everyone wants to get to know you. This week I have made some real friendships which feels so good. As a person with anxiety and depression, I struggle with reaching out and putting myself out there. This community doesn’t make that hard whatsoever.
Since the first week went by so quickly (and so is the second) most of my day to day life has been filled with people and work. I haven’t had a ton of time to absorb everything nor have I had time to post updates! This second week has flown by just as fast as the first but today I finally had a full day off while onboard the ship. Last week everyone was in the hotel so people only saw each other at meals and on the beach. However now that everyone is living on the ship again the whole community has livened up. Every night people join together to play games or watch movies together. And during the day, those who are off will go to town together or find activities to do on ship.
To make everything even brighter, the families are starting to move back on ship! That means kids are here! Everyone told me the ship is a happier place when kids are on board and they were 100% correct! Right now there are about ten kids on ship with their parents and it makes me so happy to see their smiling faces running around everyday.
Needless to say, the ship life is amazing and I can’t wait to integrate into this community more each day!