One of the specialties that Mercy Ships provides is Reconstructive Plastic Surgery. Patients who are treated often suffer from burn scarring and contractures which severely limit their mobility and functionality so things like writing with a pencil or combing their hair can prove impossible prior to surgery and these are limits they’ve often endured for years.
As well, benign tumors that grow to the point of discomfort, limited movement and often bring ridicule or shame are removed through our plastics program. During our time in Madagascar we were able to provide reconstructive plastic surgery to 195 patients. That’s 195 lives that will forever be changed because they can perform the most basic tasks which allow them to attend school, work, and thrive in community life.
Meet Dali; a sweet, six year old boy who loves drawing and soccer. Dali spends most of his time by himself as the other children are afraid of him.
“He looks different,” says his mother, Marie Augustine. “That’s why I want Mercy Ships to help so he can be like the other children.”
Dali’s condition is known as an encephalocele – Dali has a gap in his facial structure that is allowing fluid to build up, giving him the appearance of having an overly large nose. Encephalocele’s like Dali’s are common in developing countries like Madagascar and are one of the specialized surgeries offered by Mercy Ships.
Thanks to free surgery, Dali’s life has been changed forever and he can now look forward to a brighter future. This wouldn’t be possible without the service of our volunteers and the support of our donors. Thank you!
With characteristic humor, operations director Andrew Rothwell says the thing he loves most about working on board the Mercy Ship is the short commute to work– one flight of stairs from his cabin, and 30 seconds later he’s in his office.
The Australian joined Mercy Ships initially in a short term capacity as a vehicle mechanic in 2010. Andrew loved the work so much that he returned full-time the following year in the Sierra Leone, with his wife Jodie and daughter Jessica. He explains, “A lot of the fears I had about joining Mercy Ships longer term evaporated because of the people I met and got to know on board. There is almost a family-type atmosphere of inclusiveness here.”
After serving for two years as the vessel’s Engineering Storeman, Andrew transferred back to transportation, and spent another two years managing the Africa Mercy fleet of vehicles. The 26 four-wheel drives are an essential component of the on-shore work Mercy Ships provides each field service.
Each day Mercy Ships teams are transported to the dental clinic, the Hospital OutPatients Extension (HOPE) Centre, patients are moved, and supplies are relocated. Weekly the vehicles negotiate rough terrain to reach villages for palliative care and to allow the Communications team to follow up with patients’ stories after they have returned home. Keeping the fleet well maintained is a matter of crew safety as well as efficiency.
Andrew continues some oversight of the transportation department in his recent role as Operations Director. He describes this executive role as managing everything on board that is non-medical and non-maritime; everything that allows the 480+ crew members to live life on the Mercy Ship.
He continues, “The reason I like Mercy Ships is that we leave a lasting impact wherever we go. You can put your skill and experiences to use for a higher purpose – to make a difference with the skills and abilities you are given- and feel good at the end of your work day.”
Andrew reflects over his voluntary service in Togo, Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Congo and Madagascar. His most poignant moments have been observing ophthalmic patients having their eye bandages removed after cataract surgery.
He loves participating in the event that allows eye patients to share what their healing has meant to them. “The Celebration of Sight is very touching,” he reflects. “It’s like a miracle happens before you. The reaction of someone looking around and saying, ‘I can see I can see!’ is amazing! This is why we’re here.”
After 2 field services in Madagascar, the Africa Mercy will set sail for its next port in preparation for service in Benin, West Africa. We depart with many thanks from the government, local people, and patients for the impact we had here.
Each patient is special and on the AFM, we have time and resources to treat patients as individuals which enables them to walk in hope because they are seen, cared for, and valued. At the end of a field service though, we take time to look back and assess how much work was done knowing that each of the final numbers represents a story, a struggle, and new found hope for something better for an individual. The numbers are important in that they measure the impact we have on a country while at the same time remembering each touch, conversation, smile, and final goodbye to someone who has left with more than what they came with.
Though sad to say goodbye (veloma), we set sail knowing that through medical capacity building, healthcare professionals have been mentored and medical facilities are newly renovated to provide life restoring healthcare for years to come.
Our crew keep their own personal blogs and many have given us a look into their world and what leaving a country and the end of a field service means to them, especially the hard goodbyes.
Read about what Nurse Deb has loved in Madagascar: I Don’t Want to Forget
Read about what it was like for Toby to be a carpenter on board the Africa Mercy: My Time on Mercy Ships is Almost Up!
Read about Dr. Michelle’s hard goodbyes: The Season of Goodbyes
Africa Mercy Hospital Director, Kirstie Randall, recently wrote about Mercy Ships time in Madagascar coming to an end. Kirstie’s message about love being at the centre of all that we do rings true in so many ways. Read an excerpt from Kirstie below.
We all know what happens when you put a plant by the window, it grows towards the light. I’m looking at a plant doing that right now. Its leaves are, literally, stretched towards the light. It’s like they couldn’t get any closer if they tried. They are desperate for it. Desperate for life.
It feels like a picture of what has been happening here these last months. So many people, desperate for light to invade their darkness.
Back in August when we had the delays getting out of Shipyard, we were reminded that we needed love at the centre of all we do:
As we reflect on 10 busy months it’s easy to see that sometimes light can be hard to find. Sometimes the days are long, the battles seem impossible and the challenges relentless. Sometimes, we have to look really hard to find the light. Sometimes we have to actually get up and intentionally turn ourselves towards the light…. towards truth and grace… and then other times, light and life descend from nowhere.
The glistening twinkles of sunlight falling on the ocean blue, the crashing waves at 501, the riches you find in so called poverty, the redemptive song that fills the Hospital corridors, the hope that literally shines through blood soaked bandages and casted legs or the thought that maybe, after nearly 2 years on this beautiful island, we did make a difference… sometimes light and life just seep back in.
917 Max Fac Surgeries
473 Women’s Health Surgeries
238 Plastic Surgeries
817 General Surgeries
162 Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeries
Over 12,000 Dental patients
Light into darkness for 1000s of lives. 10s of 1000s of collective years of suffering. Ended.
Not to mention the 1000s trained and mentored in ways that will enhance their ability to provide safe surgical care to thousands more.
Or the surgical clinic that was renovated and filled with expertly trained Malagasy nurses who will go on to treat some of the 2,000 new cases of obstetric fistula that will form their ugly selves here in the coming year. Light sometimes looks like hope. Justice even.
Madagascar’s population is one of the poorest globally and there are approximately 15,000 children and adults disabled from clubfoot, with an estimated 1,000 children born here with the condition each year. The cost of treatment is often prohibitive for many families with an average income. And so what a joy to be a part of Tamatave’s first ever clubfoot clinic born right here – and with the support of International NGO, Miraclefeet, the work will go on for years to come. These beautiful feet will turn to the light. They will know what it is to walk and run and play… they will do the things they were created for. Light sometimes looks like redemption. Like new feet dancing in the rain.
What beauty He lets us hold.
And so, as we close our time here on this rich island of Madagascar, we are already in full swing with plans for Benin. The hope we promised in 2014 that got snatched by the scare of Ebola will be restored this coming August. We will deliver the package of light with care. It will be generous, it will be full of love and, I pray, will deposit oodles of restorative, hope filled light into 1000s of more lives.
For now, at least, ‘Hospital Out’