Once upon a time, I went to Africa to work on a big white ship. I used my skills as an OR nurse to help hundreds of people who needed their physical brokenness to be healed.
What lead me to this big white ship? I found the blog of a lady who served on that same ship. She had been there for years. She’s a pediatric ICU nurse by profession. Her blog grabbed me and made me feel things I didn’t even know I could feel. I ate up her words and prayed to God to make a way for me to go serve on that ship too.
In 2011, I sent in my application and was accepted! In 2012, I joined the ship with a great group of folks I trained with. Ali was not on the ship when we arrived. She was on maternity leave with her first baby. But in the spring of 2013, after going home to Florida and coming back to the ship, she was back on board.
One day, we were both at the pool on the top deck of the ship (yes, a pool, made from an old shipping container). I was sitting right next to her when I sheepishly said, ” hello Ali, my name is Michelle. I’ve been following you on your blog for years. You’re one of the reasons I’m on this ship. ” And she replied, “hi Michelle, I’ve been following your blog too.” Haha! We had a laugh and a nice conversation after that. It was so great to meet her in real life and thank her for her words.
When I came home from the ship that fall, Ali learned she was having a second baby. Babies aren’t allowed to be born on the ship because of weird citizenship issues. So in the spring, she went home to NJ. At 25 weeks, she had a routine ultrasound that turned her family’s world upside down. Her new baby was diagnosed with Heterotaxy syndrome. Which is a very complex syndrome that cause internal organs to be mirror imaged.
Her dream of living on the big white ship for the rest of her life was ended. And the new chapter was filled with terrifying possibilities. But the grace of God, has carried her family through!
I still follow Ali here in the USA. Now the adventure is all about her family and her boy, Ethan. And can I just tell you, she still inspires me. Her faith is stronger than ever. Her words inspire millions of people around the world. Best of all, her Ethan has lived and thrived through 4 open heart surgeries as a brilliant surgeon in Boston has built him a real, normal heart from Ethan’s own heart with a few extra bits thrown in there. I am in awe of how God has brought this child through! I can only imagine the plans God has for this family. And they’re huge!
I recently completed the Heterotaxy Anyway 5k in support of my friend. All the proceeds go to research for this syndrome so more kids like Ethan can have a chance for life! This is dedicated to my friend Ali for Ethan. 😊