Story

,
If you were asked to picture a hospital crew, your mind may jump first to doctors, surgeons, or nurses. But it takes so many kinds of specialists, each with their own skills, aspirations, and tools, to keep a hospital running. Deborah Nutsugah worked in a hospital in her home country of Ghana as a biomedical technician, specializing in handling and maintaining the medical equipment used for patient care. “I make sure this equipment is safe to be used on the patient, and also safe for use by the surgeons and the nurses,” she explained.

Meet the “Faithful Servant” of the Mercy Ships Rehab Team

While the Africa Mercy® and Global Mercy™ were docked in Senegal, volunteer physical therapists from all around the world came on board for months at a time to offer their skills and expertise. More than 350 patients came across many different volunteers on the physical rehabilitation team – but there was one familiar face that almost every patient met: Mame Birame Sy.

Life-changing Healing for Samba

After 56 years with a cleft lip, it took just a two-hour surgery to change Samba’s life and unleash his God-given potential.   Samba, a widower with four children, worked as a cattle farmer in rural Senegal, where he faced discrimination due to his lifelong condition.  He had grown used to his cleft lip drawing unwanted attention. Physical attacks were so commonplace that Samba couldn’t guess how many times they had happened. 

The Future Holds Great Promise: Diarra’s Story

For 25-year-old Diarra, stepping into the operating room of the Africa Mercy® was a moment more than a decade in the making. She had been looking for healing for a facial tumor for almost half her life.  “I feel so good inside my heart,” she exclaimed about her opportunity for surgery. “I have been to many different doctors, but they couldn't heal it.”  She couldn’t recall when the tumor began to grow. All she remembers is being a teenager and experiencing a toothache that led to a small growth. From there, “it just kept getting bigger.” Diarra’s parents took her to several hospitals. Each visit was a step in an uphill battle, made harder by their meager earnings as small-scale farmers. Medical costs loomed large, forcing them to choose between caring for their other children or seeking healing for their daughter. Eventually, they stopped looking. 

Training that Saves Lives: Dr. Camara’s Story

, ,
As a young boy, Dr. Abraham Camara was puzzled when relatives, friends, and neighbors came to seek medical help from his father, a high school teacher. “He was the only person who had gone to university, and he worked for the government,” explained Dr. Camara. Thus, “they thought he would know a lot about healthcare.” His father embraced the responsibility. He recommended hospitals, raised funds for medical bills, made appointments with doctors, and took neighbors to treatments when he could. Watching his father in action planted seeds of empathy in Dr. Camara’s heart. A dream to go into medicine was born. Dr. Camara grew up to make that dream a reality. For the past 12 years, he has been training to become a specialized surgeon. This dream is rooted in the desire to become the ultimate champion of his patients: “I want to be in the best possible position to help.”

Healed After 27 Years: Coumba’s Journey

Coumba was at her family’s farm on the day that her life changed forever.  “Our mother used to cook with fire,” she said. “It was a big farm, so my mother would start a fire in one place, then go to another. My little brother was playing by the fire, got too close, and started to burn.”  At just 4 years old, Coumba rushed in to save her brother as the fire grew.  “I fell on my left side, so I burned there,” Coumba said. “My brother was then crying a lot, which my mother heard, so she came to us, but I was already entirely burnt on my left side.”  With her left arm fused in a bent position and her hand damaged, Coumba adjusted to life with only one functional arm and hand. She grew up to marry, work as a maid, and raise three children on their rice and vegetable farm in northern Senegal. Coumba longed to take care of the farm herself, like many other women do in Senegal, but her limited range of motion made this dream impossible.  After decades of living with a bent arm, surgery on the Africa Mercy® meant that at the age of 31, Coumba’s life was about to change. 

‘The Gifts Within’: Hamadou Finds Hope

, ,
Hamadou was 4 years old when he came to the Africa Mercy® in Senegal. By then, he had learned to cope with the physical limitations of his cleft lip, a gap in his upper lip that impacted his ability to swallow and eat, as well as how his teeth were growing. But the cleft lip continued to hold him back socially, even within his own family. People in Hamadou’s community drink their water from a large pot that they share with other members of their household, as well as any guests. “People would not want to drink from the same water pot as him,” said his mother Hawa. While Hamadou was isolated in some ways, his mother was always by his side providing constant support.

On the Frontlines of Healing: A Nurse Mentee’s Story

,
In any profession, mentorship and knowledge sharing are at the heart of empowering good workers to become great ones. This is especially true in the medical field, where skilled practitioners are responsible for providing exceptional care to those who need it most. In 2022, when the Africa Mercy® visited Senegal for a 10-month field service, over 50 medical professionals participated in training and mentorship programs to hone their skills and improve patient care. The very last of these professionals was Sawdiatou Mbodji, who joined the ship’s nursing team for one month of mentorship.

Daouda, 13, who struggled to eat or speak due to tumour receives transformational surgery in Senegal

,
A teenage boy who spent years seeking surgery for an expanding facial tumour that left him struggling to eat or talk has received successful surgery, thanks to a surgical charity. Dauoda was only four when a tiny node emerged on his upper jaw. The condition would be picked up earlier by a dentist in other countries but was much harder in his home country of Senegal where there are only just over eight dentists per 1 million people.

Partnerships are vital building blocks of effective universal healthcare systems

,
Sub-Saharan Africa has an especially urgent need to strengthen surgical care systems. Surgery has long been a neglected component of health care for people on the African continent, and equitable integration of surgical and anaesthetic care remains the key challenge to strengthening health systems and achieving universal health coverage in Africa. If we get this right, we can greatly reduce the rate of mortality and morbidity from surgically preventable and treatable conditions on the continent.