Pink Painted Nails.


photo:  © Debra Bell for Mercy Ships

Meet Hasanatu from the hinterlands of Guinea

I first saw her a few weeks ago in our maxillofacial ward. I was there to visit a patient in an adjacent bed, but couldn't help noticing those beautifully painted pink nails!  

You might be wondering what causes a giant tumor such as this? But where Hasanatu comes from, the question is not what caused her tumor, but rather, who caused it?  Here, suspicion, distrust and fear are the constant companions of those suffering from disfiguring disease. Was she cursed? Were the ancestors unhappy with her behaviour? What terrible act did she commit to bring such a thing about? Over time, as the tumor grew, Hasanatu felt herself pushed further and further towards the fringes of her community, until one day it seemed as if she were no longer human.  

Which brings me back to the pink painted nails. 

Hasanatu spent a couple of days, prior to being admitted, at our Hope Center about a mile down the road from the ship.  The Hope Center is something like a youth hostel for our patients who come from outside the capital city of Conakry, where we're docked. The Hope Center was renovated and is staffed by our crew -- so that patients who arrive early for surgery, or need to stay post operatively for physiotherapy or further healing will have a safe and clean environment in which to wait.

It seems that one of our crew members at the Hope Center painted Hasantu's nails bright pink while she waited for her surgical date.  Someone thought she was in need of a little nail polish.  Someone thought she was worth it. 

I remember reading  an article about Mother Teresa in a British newspaper shortly after Gary and I were married.  The column had a hard, cynical edge to it. In essence the reporter wanted the reader to know that Mother Teresa was wasting her time picking up half-dead beggars from Calcutta's streets and providing them with a clean and safe environment in which to die.  "What good is she doing?" he asked.  "She doesn't have a medical degree.  She can't make them well.  She isn't involved in training or development or capacity building of any kind.  The world is no better for the work she does.  What difference does it make?"

What difference does it make?  Ask Hasanatu.

Because sometimes the difference between being shunned and feeling human again is found in a bottle of bright pink nail polish.

© Susan Parker 2016  All rights reserved.