Tuesday 3 October 2017: After high school, Fremantle woman Sarah Sim developed a passion for travelling and through her university studies also gained a keen interest in global health care.
It was upon seeing a documentary on TV that the former St John of God Hospital oncology nurse found a way to combine the two by volunteering on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship in Africa.
“Experiencing new cultures has influenced me to see a lot of the world, especially developing countries, which has given me some invaluable insight to the health disparities throughout the world,” Miss Sim said.
“I have always felt very lucky and grateful for the lifestyle, health care and living conditions we have in Australia and feel that it’s vital that we don’t become immune to the global health inequities and poverty.”
Operated by the international medical charity Mercy Ships, the Africa Mercy hospital ship arrived in the Central African nation of Cameroon in August to provide free surgery, health care and development aid to the nation’s people.
Miss Sim joined the ship’s crew of over 400 volunteers as an admissions nurse later that month, where she is responsible for assessing each patient who comes aboard and admitting them for their surgery.
“Many patients coming to Mercy Ships have extremely challenging lives. Lack of access to appropriate medical care and treatment is one of the main pressing issues.”
“The work that I’m doing with Mercy Ships in admissions is a vital aspect of the patient’s journey whilst with Mercy Ships.”
“Once patients are screened it does not always mean that their surgery will go ahead straight away.”
“We have had a few presentations whereby they have been found to have underlying medical conditions which exclude them from being able to have surgery, and or conditions which delay their surgery, such as testing positive to HIV or malaria.”
Miss Sim said there had been many highlights during her time serving in Africa so far, including the excitement she sees on her patients’ faces as their time finally arrives to board the ship.
“Seeing their faces lighten and the sheer joy they show when we walk down to the ward is one of my daily highlights.”
Prior to travelling to Cameroon, Miss Sim researched the nation’s geography, government and epidemiology, all of which helped to increase her interest.
“I thought I had a bit of an idea of what it would be like however, having been here now, I don’t think anything can prepare you for the extent of the health conditions patients present with.”
She said the reaction to her decision to travel to Cameroon from those around her at home and work had been largely positive and encouraging.
“A few friends were taken aback by the concept of living on a ship in Africa but on the whole everyone has been really enthusiastic and intrigued about the whole decision.”
“This experience has definitely consolidated my desire to come on regular missions whether it is with Mercy Ships or other NGO’s throughout Africa.”
Miss Sim will finish up on the Africa Mercy in October and make a quick trip to London before returning home.
About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, treating more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. The Africa Mercy is crewed by 400 volunteers from up to 40 nations, an average of 1000 each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. With offices in 16 nations, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information visit www.mercyshps.org.au
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager, Mercy Ships Australia