Renae Wright, R.N., a surgical nurse from Scottsdale, Ariz., will depart February 21 for Congo on a mission trip sponsored by the non-profit organization Instruments of Mercy®. She will serve for two weeks on the Africa Mercy, flagship for the global service organization Mercy Ships®.
“I’ve seen the Mercy Ships booth for several years at AORN Congress, and I’ve been wanting to serve on the ship,” Wright said, referring to the annual conference of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses. While at last year’s AORN Congress in San Diego, she stopped by the Instruments of Mercy booth and registered for the drawing that led to her trip being sponsored.
“I think Mercy Ships has such a neat mission in terms of what they do to bring help to people who might not otherwise have access to care,” she said. Born in South Korea and adopted by an American family in Iowa, she said she is especially excited to be able to use her nursing skills abroad.
In September 2013, Instruments of Mercy provided a similar sponsorship enabling surgical nurse Brenna Boespflug to serve on the ship, also in Congo.
Communicating with international doctors and nurses, as well as French-speaking patients, was less of a problem than she expected. She recalled an 8-year-old girl with a pocket of brain fluid on her forehead. “She came back to the O.R. every day the first week I was there. A couple of times she would dip downhill and we didn’t think she would make it. And she came back.” At one point, Boespflug recalled, “She reached over and grabbed my hand. I looked down and she smiled at me. It was such a great moment, connecting with this little girl … it was all eye contact and touch.”
In the O.R., volunteer doctors and nurses from all over the world managed to understand each other instantly. “O.R. nursing is the same language, so I was able to jump right in,” she said.
In addition to working as a scrub and circulating nurse during surgeries, she got to help train local O.R. personnel. “They would come in and work with us during the day, and we were training them on how we work in the O.R. It was so much fun being with them!”
What would she tell other nurses considering volunteering on the Africa Mercy? That it is a life-changing experience you will never forget.
“The core essence of nursing is helping others, and in a place like the Congo, your nursing care means everything,” she said. “You’ll be a better person and you’ll be a better nurse for having done it.”
About Instruments of Mercy: Instruments of Mercy provides surgical instrument repair for volunteer medical teams working throughout the world. With the support of Integrated Medical Systems International, Inc. (IMS), Instruments of Mercy also sends repair technicians to the ship once each year to refurbish the instruments the ship's surgeons use to repair cleft palates, obstetrical injuries, orthopedic deformities, and other serious problems that can be treated surgically.
Contact: Toney Peer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 205.913.6032