Madagascar, the fourth-largest island in the world, is home to over twenty-two million people. But there are only eight surgeons who specialize in orthopedics and traumatology. Most of them are located in the capital city, Antananarivo.
In the port city of Tamatave, where the Mercy Ships is docked, Dr. Randrianirina Andry is the only orthopedic surgeon. He says, “We need to train more people to become orthopedic surgeons. We especially need more adequate conditions and equipment for these types of surgery.”
The statistics verify his statement. It is estimated that over 15,000 adults and children are afflicted with neglected clubfoot, and nearly a thousand babies are born with clubfoot each year.* In addition, people suffer from other orthopedic deformities, such as bowed legs.
Driven by a passion for bringing hope and healing to those who would never otherwise receive treatment, Mercy Ships provided 55 free orthopedic surgeries and over 990 orthopedic therapy services during the 2014-2015 Madagascar Field Service.
But Mercy Ships also invested in the long-term future of Madagascar’s health infrastructure by providing healthcare education. The healthcare education projects impart knowledge and skills, while modeling and encouraging compassion and a professional work ethic. In addition to offering internationally recognized courses for groups and structured observation in the Africa Mercy hospital, Mercy Ships also provides one-on-one mentoring opportunities.
Dr. Frank says, “Anatomy transcends language. Pictures and X-rays are common in any language. Dr. Andry has been quite keen to come in and work. He’s anxious to learn more. He’s very skillful … great technique surgically … he has good hands. We’re lucky to have him. He also has to take calls in the community and has a ward full of patients that he has to see twice a day.”
For six weeks, Dr. Andry spent two to three days each week as an active participant in our Africa Mercy operating room team. He absorbed a lot of knowledge. He says, “The difference between the training I got before and this new one is about the practice. Before, the training was theoretical. The practicing time was short. It was a theoretical training. That is what I got before. But here, we don’t have too much theoretical training! The most important is practicing. For example, in the operating room, I learned something new and easy to practice, something I didn’t know before. It doesn’t require special tools or something expensive that we cannot have. It’s easy and useful. It’s a knowledge that we can use directly, and that makes this training really different. “
The knowledge he gained has transformed Dr. Andry’s day-to-day practice. “I thank Dr. Frank. He taught me a lot – especially in pediatric orthopedic surgery. Currently it is Dr. Frank’s technique that I always use for the surgical treatment of clubfoot and also the Ponseti method,” he added.
Furthermore, like every surgical mentoring participant, Dr. Andry completed the WHO Safe Surgical Checklist training. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk of care-associated infection can be 20 times higher in developing countries than in developed countries. Charitable organization Lifebox has partnered with Mercy Ships to promote quality, safe care, using pulse oximetry. In low-resource settings, this simple checklist has resulted in a 47% decrease of surgical mortality, 36% reduction in major complications, and 50% reduction in infection rates.
Dr. Andry teaches orthopedics and anatomy as part of the Medical Faculty of Tamatave, and he is passionate about sharing the knowledge he has learned. Through dedicated doctors like Dr. Andry, Mercy Ships hopes to leave a legacy that will sustain and spread.
Dr. Andry says, “My message for Malagasy people … having Mercy Ships here in Madagascar is really important. They help us a lot, especially for healthcare. For doctors … it’s really important for us because we get new knowledge, new experiences. It’s important for all of us, and we thank them all. For sponsors … thank you very much because without you, all of this would be impossible. I hope that sponsoring will continue. For the crew … I hope that you will continue to volunteer.”