“My family said he was too tiny – he would die with surgery and die without surgery. They told me not to bother taking Djaliou to the ship,” recounted Sara…
Remembering when she was first told her son could have a free operation onboard the Africa Mercy. The five-month-old was born with a rare condition, something most of our surgeons had only read about. A mass on the infant’s tongue, present since birth, made it difficult for him to breathe or eat – which made it nearly impossible for him to grow. The energy the baby got from his mother’s milk was mostly used just to get air into his body. Whenever he inhaled, his ribcage would shudder as if he were taking his last breath.
But even with the odds against her little boy, Sara persisted. Although he couldn’t breastfeed, she was able to manually pump milk for him – but even then, Djaliou drank little. And, although most of her family advised Sara to give up her son as dead, her husband thought differently. “Go to the ship,” he said. So Sara packed a few things and made the ten-hour trek, with her silent baby – he had no strength to cry – tucked close.
But upon coming to the ship, Djaliou wasn’t a “quick fix.” His relatives had been right – at 4.7 pounds, the 3-month-old weighed far too little for surgery. Even though it was difficult for him to eat, he had to gain weight for any chance to live. For almost two months, Djaliou and his mother stayed at the HOPE Center, the Mercy Ships outpatient facility, working regularly with Lee-Anne Borrow (AUS), a volunteer dietician and the head of the Africa Mercy Infant Feeding Program. Slowly, the baby put on weight.
Even so, Sara remained ambivalent. “I always had two ideas in my head,” she recounted. “Sometimes I thought my baby would die. Sometimes I thought he would live …”
And perhaps Sara was right to remain cautious – even though Djaliou was closer and closer to being ready for surgery, such a specialized operation would require just the right group of experts, experts who were not yet onboard the Africa Mercy.
But then, almost two months after Sara had brought her son to the ship, the perfect scenario developed. “It’s really incredible,” said Lee-Anne. “We had an Ear Nose and Throat specialist and a Pediatric Anesthesiologist overlap here for a short window of time – they were exactly who we needed.”
Within a few days, Djaliou was whisked onboard the Africa Mercy – he would have surgery the following morning. But that night, even as the ward grew silent, the voices of Sara’s family began to echo through the mother’s head. “I did not sleep,” she recounts. “I was remembering what people had said – that my son would die during the operation.”
The next day, the operating team worked from morning till night, slowly removing the mass from Djaliou’s tongue. All the while, Sara waited, speaking very little to anyone. But, as evening approached, she was finally called into the recovery room. There was her son, Djaliou – alive.
A week after surgery, Sara sat next to Lee-Anne, watching as her son played with the dietician’s Africa Mercy badge. Djaliou had recovered quickly, and it was already his second-to-last checkup. Immediately after the operation, his breathing became much easier, and he began crying like a normal baby. Within a few days, he was even able to drink by himself.
“Now I’m just waiting until you’ll tell me I can go home,” Sara said with a laugh, looking at her son as he cooed. “I want to show everyone he is alive.”
Monthly partners John and Mae from Vancouver, BC first heard about Mercy Ships on a television program eight years ago. They also give back by being Miles for Mercy collectors, which means they collect Air Miles at all places that accept them and donate them to Mercy Ships Canada!
Jane, who speaks to Mercy Ships Canada donors on a daily basis, caught up with John and Mae to ask them a few questions and find out why they continue to be monthly partners.
What inspired you to give your first gift?
Seeing people who help other people. When people go out to help others…we want to join them. Your work was really interesting.
What inspired you to become a monthly partner?
We like the convenience. We can help more people that way.
Why do you think others should become monthly donors?
The more the better! When we learn more about Mercy Ships…we know our money is well spent.
How do you feel connected to Mercy Ships and the cause?
We like talking to Jane! We like the videos…to see the ship outside & inside. To see exactly what you do.
We are so grateful for partners like John and Mae, who give what they can to support the Mercy Ships mission in bringing free healthcare to the developing world. It couldn’t be done without people like them!
Take a moment to watch a recent favorite video of John and Mae’s
Did you know that the Africa Mercy has a dedicated Hospital Informatics Manager? This field service the role is filled by the talented Denny who creates pretty amazing graphics like this one. Here’s a summary in his words of what it is and how it helps us out in the field.
This is an info graphic dashboard that gives us a glimpse of where we have recruited patients, in what proportions, and for what diagnosis. This dashboard is updated in real-time as patients are screened with our mobile screening app on smartphones by Beninese field screeners. It also contains a radar chart that tells us the number of patients we have screened for each specialty. The area chart in the bottom middle displays the number of patients that have been screened each day by each Beninese field screeners. Based off the statistics within this dashboard we can adjust our screening strategies to recruit patients in a balanced way from all regions of the country for each specialty.
We’re so excited to take a glimpse this week at Hospital Informatics and see how technology and medicine are connecting more and more to provide better patient care!
The power of love means many things, but for Mercy Ships, love means saving lives. Partners like you make this possible, and we are so blessed to have your support. Thank you for all you do to share love with those in need. Today, on Valentine’s Day, we want not only our patients to know that they are enough, but for you to know how grateful we are that you are showing up for them, and for Mercy Ships. With that, we leave you with an excerpt from Dear Human – By Courtney Walsh.
Dear Human: You’ve got it all wrong.
You didn’t come here to master unconditional love.
That is where you came from and where you’ll return.
You came here to learn personal love.
Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love.
Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love.
Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling.
Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often.
You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are.
You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous.
And then to rise again into remembering.
Love, in truth, doesn’t need ANY other adjectives.
It doesn’t require modifiers.
It doesn’t require the condition of perfection.
It only asks that you show up. And do your best.
That you stay present and feel fully.
That you shine and fly and laugh and cry
and hurt and heal and fall and get back up
and play and work and live and die as YOU.
It’s enough. It’s Plenty.
Dr. Ross first heard about Mercy Ships when she saw a documentary on television about 10 years ago, as a young surgeon practicing in Ontario. “When the narrator said, ‘the line just never ends’ I decided then and there I would one day volunteer on that ship” Joan tells us.
What inspired you to give your first gift?
My first “gift” was to volunteer as a surgeon on the Ship after being inspired by the documentary 10 years earlier. I was skeptical to donate to another charitable organization at the time and determined I would have to see it to believe it! After being on the ship in person, I was disappointed that I hadn’t helped this cause much earlier, as everything is just as they show – they truly are giving free surgery at the highest standard, to the poorest nations in the world, and the donations truly are going directly to the real surgical needs of the people of those countries.
Why did you become a monthly donor?
I became a monthly donor after hosting a Benefit Concert for Mercy Ships put on by singer/songwriter Déni Gauthier. I was so pleased to see that many of my friends who listened to my short presentation about my experience on the Ship at intermission that night, understood that “the line never ends”. Many gave monthly donations rather than a one-time gift. I also decided to give my ongoing support to the magnificent work being done on the Ship, as well as continue to do speaking engagements to try to recruit other volunteers and monthly donors. In my time on the Ship I was awestruck to hear not only the steady thank yous from so many grateful patients, but every one of them always added, “Please keep Mercy Ships going so others will get the surgery they need also.”
How do you feel connected to Mercy Ships and the work while living in Canada and far from the ship?
The email newsletters and videos keep you very well connected with the lives that are being changed. I never watch a Mercy Ships video without being moved to tears, but also find myself cheering through my tears, as their smiles become “so big” when they see the transformation the surgery brings. The involvement I’ve had with the Organization personally, has been so amazing from the first email inquiry 4 years ago about volunteering. Every question is responded to with amazing promptness and cheerfulness, which allayed my fears and encouraged me incredibly. Every staff member I’ve been in contact with has become like family to me, both those I’ve met and those I haven’t. They all have so much passion and kindness. Since I agreed to join their Speaker’s Network, they have promptly and freely given me all the information I could ever need as I prepare for the many questions an inquiring audience might ask. They just make everything so very easy which is such a joy.
Since being a volunteer on the Ship, I saw firsthand that donations go directly towards people who desperately need surgery. I’ve seen how grateful every patient is for the gift of tangible hope, and this is nothing short of “love in action” which i personally know is most fulfilling to the giver. You can’t help but understand that it truly is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
Why do you think others should become monthly donors?
Monthly donations bring more stability to the day to day functioning of the Ship, and the ability to budget to keep the Ship going, for the great number of surgeries that need to done week by week, month by month, year by year.
Thank you Dr. Ross for your ongoing commitment to Mercy Ships, because of partners like you, one day the line will end.
Are you interested in becoming a monthly partner?GIVE MONTHLY TODAY!