Juliette’s journey to healing began before the Africa Mercy ever arrived in Madagascar. Many would say it was divine providence that connected her with Mercy Ships nurses Mirjam Plomp and Jasmin Biddell. They were on an advance team scouting Juliette’s town, Monrandava, as a potential patient screening location. It’s located nearby the famous avenue of Baobab trees.
The nurses were relaxing one evening in the town, sharing with locals about the free surgeries and healthcare services Mercy Ships would soon be offering in the nation. One Malagasy man asked if they would examine an older lady he knew with a large facial growth.
The 52-year-old grandmother was waiting on the team’s doorstep at 5.30 the next morning. The nurses examined the tumor growing in Juliette’s mouth and gave her the very first appointment card for the 2013-2014 Madagascar Field Service. She would be evaluated by a surgeon when the Mercy Ship arrived.
One huge financial obstacle to Juliette’s healing had been removed – the surgery she needed would be free. However, another insurmountable problem remained. Juliette lived more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the port city of Toamasina, where the Mercy Ship anchored. The cost of transportation to get there was unobtainable.
So, she never made the journey. Mirjam explained how they tried to call and find Juliette. They looked for her over the following months as patients arrived, “But she never showed,” Mirjam said.
Meanwhile, the tumor inside Juliette’s mouth continued to grow. “It took up space in my mouth. It grew and grew. It just got bigger and bigger. It was really frightening,” she remembered.
When the second consecutive Madagascar field service was announced, Juliette’s hopes were rekindled after losing her first chance for healing. “I was worried, but then really happy when I heard Mercy Ships was coming back for another screening,” she said.
Mirjam described seeing Juliette upon the return of the Mercy Ships team to Monrandava. “She showed up on the first screening day. She said she didn’t have money to come for her (previous) appointment.”
For this second field service, an initiative by Malagasy companies helped sponsor patient transportation from far-flung towns to the hospital ship. This complimentary bus ticket was the reason Juliette was finally able to travel to the Mercy Ship to receive the free surgery that removed the invasive, benign tumor from her mouth.
Juliette is very thankful for her second chance for healing. “I am really satisfied,” she said. “They took care of me day and night. Someone was always there to give me medicine or what I needed. I am happy the tumor is not there anymore. It is gone!”
Written by Sharon Walls