FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE, SEPTEMBER 13, 2023 – A 43-year-old man who feared he would have to live with a tumour on his face for life was the first patient to receive a life-changing surgery on board the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, the Global Mercy™ yesterday, September 12, in the Port of Freetown, following the ship’s recent arrival.
Father-of-one Emmanuel thought the small lump in his mouth was just toothache or a cold sore when he discovered it four years ago. But it continued to grow bigger on his lower face and medication did not stop it continuing to enlarge.
He had resigned himself to living with the tumour forever but he constantly worried that it would burst and complicate his health.
Yesterday, the Sierra Leonean who lives in Freetown became the first person to receive one of more than 2,350 surgeries planned for the Global Mercy’s 10-month stay in Freetown.
Emmanuel, who has kept the surgery a secret from both his son and father to surprise them after in person, said: “I am so happy to be heading to the ship today. This is one of the happiest days of my life.”
His aunt said: “After surgery I hope he can come back and become a witness for what is possible.”
Currently there are no fully certified maxillofacial specialist surgeons practicing in country for the population of 8.4 million people, according to Dr Mustapha Kabba, Deputy Chief Medical Officer – Clinical Services for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
Dr Kabba said: “We have primary healthcare systems that are up and running, but we really need specialised people.” He expressed his gratitude for Mercy Ships’ support with difficult surgeries of this nature.
International Chief Medical Officer, American surgeon Dr Mark Shrime and Swiss oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr Didier-David Malis performed the surgery, with Dr Shrime taking the lead. They were supported by a multinational team of professionals, who volunteered their time and expertise on this unique hospital ship.
Australian volunteer Hospital Director Keren Fuhrmeister said: “The first day of surgery for us is the one we’ve all been waiting for, because it shows the start of our journey here.
We are not only providing the surgeries that our patients need, but we want to partner with the country of Sierra Leone to provide mentoring, training, and a platform where we can best serve our patients and strengthen their health system.”
This is the sixth time a Mercy Ship has been in Sierra Leone since 1992. This time, the purpose-built Global Mercy, which only began full operations last year, will focus on bringing hope and healing through the following surgical specialties: Maxillofacial, General, Paediatric Specialised General, Orthopaedic, Reconstructive Plastics, and Ophthalmology.
The Global Mercy is not just a hospital but also a floating training centre, that will facilitate hundreds of hours of training in the coming ten months whilst docked in Freetown. Volunteer professionals on board, in collaboration with in-country partners, plan to train more than 200 healthcare professionals in a range of surgical education courses.
Over the course of five previous field services, Mercy Ships has partnered closely with Sierra Leone’s government to provide safe, free surgeries to a total of 9,548 patients.
ABOUT MERCY SHIPS:
Mercy Ships operates hospital ships that deliver free surgeries and other healthcare services to those with little access to safe medical care. An international faith-based organization, Mercy Ships has focused entirely on partnering with African nations for the past three decades. Working with in-country partners, Mercy Ships also provides training to local healthcare professionals and supports the construction of in-country medical infrastructure to leave a lasting impact.
Each year, more than 3,000 volunteer professionals from over 60 countries serve on board the world’s two largest non-governmental hospital ships, the Africa Mercy® and the Global Mercy™. Professionals such as surgeons, dentists, nurses, health trainers, cooks, and engineers dedicate their time and skills to accelerate access to safe surgical, obstetric and anaesthetic care. Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 and has offices in 16 countries as well as an Africa Service Centre in Dakar, Senegal. For more information, visit mercyships.org and follow @MercyShips on social media.
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