Ellen from Waipu helped care for Paul Bernard onboard after the reconstructive surgery that restored his ability to use his badly burned arm. The career nurse was deeply touched by this resilient young man, who had suffered with this condition since he was a toddler. Here’s a behind the scenes glimpse into Paul’s journey to healing.
Ellen explains, ‘I first came to know Paul in the treatment room – at the end of the ward corridor on the ship’s hospital deck – a sterile area where all wound care is carried out. Paul Bernard entered hesitantly, not really knowing what to expect. His burn scars were quite extensive, involving both his hands and forearms. The scars he’d had for most of his childhood required surgical release and skin grafting before he would regain the ability to move his arms and hands freely.
Paul was understandably nervous when we removed his dressings (bandages) for the first time after his reconstructive surgery. He sat there quietly gritting his teeth and breathing deeply in anticipation, but with the help of the medical team translator who accompanied him, and with encouragement and reassurance from us all, he slowly relaxed. This treatment took an hour every two days.
Although Paul Bernard was always a little shy and very quiet, we soon learned what music he liked, and as long as that was playing when he came into the treatment room, he relaxed.
Paul’s smile grew as he saw the healing that was taking place, and he started to regain use of his hands. With healing, his confidence grew. Very soon he was playing games with other patients and would wave as I walked past the ward.
I left the Africa Mercy before Paul Bernard was discharged and other volunteers completed the journey to healing alongside him, so it is heartwarming to read that he made such a great recovery. He is getting on with his life.’
Ellen passed the baton on to others in the Mercy Ships medical crew, confident that Paul Bernard would continue to receive tending loving care of the highest professional standard. But there were many others that were also involved in Paul Bernard’s transformation – electricians, technology specialists, physios, cooks and cleaners. It’s a big team that makes mercy happen!
See Paul Bernard’s transformation story here