Thursday 12 July 2018: Darwin pysician Sarah Lynar has returned home after volunteering her time and skills in Africa on board the world’s largest independent hosptial ship docked on the coast of Cameroon.
“I’ve known about Mercy Ships since I first read the book about its inception as a young child of around 10 years old,” Dr Lynar remembers.
“I thought it was such a unique concept to bring a floating hospital to a needy community where suitable surgery was otherwise unavailable.”
“When I was 11 we spent six months travelling which included some volunteering in the Philippines, and it was then that I truly realised I wanted to spend my life in a profession that would help me meet some of the needs I had seen.”
Dr Lynar grew up in Orange and worked in Sydney and Wagga Wagga before moving to Darwin two years ago.
She joined the Africa Mercy’s crew of over 400 volunteers in early April, serving as one of two hospital physicians who worked alongside the surgeons to take care of the patients during their initial screenings and throughout their time in the hospital.
“As a physician, at first I wasn’t sure what it would be like working in a ship that was dedicated to surgery only.”
“Luckily for me, the surgeons and indeed all the health care staff were amazing and inspiring, perhaps by virtue of the fact that they are all the sort of people who would volunteer their time and skills to come to treat some of the poorest of the poor.”
The Africa Mercy arrived in the port city of Douala, Cameroon, in August 2017 with plans to provide almost 4,000 thousand life-changing surgeries on board, to treat over 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic as well as providing health care training to local medical professionals during 10 months in port.
“To me there’s something addictive about being pushed into another culture; the dance of communication across language barriers, the constant realisation that there are far more similarities than differences, and the infinite opportunities to expand my own worldview.”
“Although clichéd, I feel that I gain far more than I give but I hope that perhaps at the same time there are people whose capacity is increased because of what small things the ship can offer.”
“In Australia, if someone is given a diagnosis of a benign tumour it’s a relief for them. It usually means that, as long as it’s removed, they are looking at a good prognosis.”
“In many developing countries without the same access to timely, affordable and accessible health care, a benign tumour diagnosis makes very little difference to a malignant one. Eventually the tumour will expand and they are likely to eventually die by asphyxiation or by compression on another vital part of their body. This shouldn’t happen in this day and age!”
Dr Lynar says that some of the patients she met in Cameroon will stay in her mind forever.
“There were a number of complicated patients on board even in the short time I was there. Seeing each patient go from withdrawn and nervous to being confident and often feisty, that was the highlight!”
She doesn’t yet know what the future will hold now that she’s returned home to Australia.
“I have definitely been impacted by the work that is done here and the multicultural community of both local and international staff on board the ship.”
“While I will continue to work in the NT, I look forward to seeing what else Mercy Ships will do!”
About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development aid to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, with more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations serve with Mercy Ships. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. Mercy Ships Australia, one of 16 international support offices, is based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. For more information, visit www.mercyships.org.au
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager
Mercy Ships Australia
(07) 5437 2992
High resolution photos are available upon request, with attribution to Mercy Ships.