Almost every man here in Togo wears his hair cut very short, a millimetre or two away from a smooth shave. So when I walked into D Ward this morning and saw the curly mop on Abola's head in Bed Six, I was a little surprised. I knew we'd have to do something about it before Dr. Gary could tackle the fist-sized tumor poking out of the curls on the right side of his head, and since I seem to be the one with the most experience in hair cutting this year, I ran back upstairs for the clippers.
During rounds, Dr. Gary told the patient that we'd be cutting his hair before he went to the operating room and looked at me to confirm that I was up for the task. I laughed and pointed to the clippers, charging on the desk, and he went on to offer Abola his choice of hairstyle. We can just cut the hair around the tumor, or we can cut all of it. It's your choice. Abola replied immediately. Cut it all.
And so, after rounds, and after the customary disclaimer that I'm not a professional barber, I draped Abola in a sheet and set to work. A few minutes and quite a bit of hair later, he had a completely new look, one that was admired by everyone in the ward. I took him into the bathroom to wash off the extra pieces and give him his pre-surgical scrub, and he peered into the mirror, turning so that he could see the tumor. It stood out in sharp relief from his newly-shorn head, obvious now that his hair was gone. He touched it once, gently, then turned to let me finish my work.
As I left for the day, Abola was being wheeled from the operating room to the recovery room. The clean, white bandage was wound tight and smooth against his head, the tumor completely gone.
He won't need to let his hair grow long again. There's nothing left to hide.
I'm Ali; twenty-nine years old, and married to Phil, an electrician, also known as The Husband of Joy (HoJ for short). We're parents to Zoe (who is quite possibly the cutest baby ever), and we live on board the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship, the M/V Africa Mercy, where we work with Mercy Ships to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor in West Africa. The whole crew, from cook to captain, is made up of volunteers from more than thirty countries who are dedicated to bringing the love of Jesus to the world. So many people say they love their jobs enough to do them for free; we're a ship full of people who actually get to live that way. (I moderate all comments, so don't worry if yours doesn't show up right away. If it won't let you post, please e-mail me at alirae[at]quist[dot]ca. I love hearing from you!)