22 Jul The Journey to Hope and Healing
How far can you imagine travelling to receive healthcare?
For many of the patients you serve, access to care isn’t only limited by the cost, it’s also physically out of reach. Without trained medical specialists in their regions, small health issues can quickly grow into life-threatening conditions with no hope in sight.
When a Mercy Ship sails into port for a 10-month field service, healing is finally within reach, but for the patients, their journey is just beginning. After attending local screening days and being selected for surgery, patients make their way from their homes to the ship. Whether travelling down a mountain, through the country via public transport or even across rivers in a canoe, it’s not unusual for patients to come from the faraway regions of their country to receive care.
Take sisters Salamatou and Mariama, for example, who lived in a mountainous village in Cameroon. Travelling to or from their village requires a steep ride on horseback surrounded by craggy rocks with only wildlife for company. It’s an epic journey, but because of their twisted legs, these two little girls had never left their village high in the hills.
The six- and eight-year-old sisters didn’t get the important nutrients they needed during crucial years of bone development. Without strong bones, the pressure of walking caused their legs to grow incorrectly, resulting in a condition called Valgus. Because of their malformed legs, they both found it difficult to walk to school, and only sometimes managed to attend. Their malnutrition, combined with an inability to access surgery, meant Salamatou and Mariama had to learn to cope with their twisted legs.
When their father, Debo, heard about Mercy Ships, he led his girls down the mountain on horseback, making the long journey to the coast.
“We didn’t know the hospital was actually in the ship. We’ve never been to a ship before,” said Debo. “When I first came I was afraid for my girls, but then I saw many children like them and the fear went away.”
“The route down the mountain was too much for the girls before, and I thought they would never go down. Their lives are far better now, far improved,” said Debo. “Now, they will be able to commit to school and use their education. Before, my heart was anxious for my family, but now I am content.”
Salamatou and Mariama with their family
Increasing Access to Care Long-Term
While your support is providing surgical treatment onboard hospital ships, it’s also helping to train medical professionals capable of strengthening their own healthcare systems. The goal is that in future generations, it won’t be necessary to travel hundreds of miles to receive care and people in need will have adequate medical solutions much closer to home.
The desire to bridge the gap between remote patients and quality care guides many of the participants you help to train, like Amadou, one of the students in the dental training programme at Guinea’s Abdel Nasser Gamal University. He decided to study dentistry after realising the need for properly trained dentists in his rural home region in Guinea. After earning his degree in dentistry, Amadou’s dream is to use his training to serve those who can’t access care: “I hope to one day go to the most remote villages to share my experience and bring care to the most disadvantaged.”
Travelling to Bring Safe Surgical Training
It is not just the patients on the move. While the ships remain docked in port during each field service, many of Mercy Ships volunteer teams are far from stationary. In fact, volunteer teams travel across countries to make surgical care and medical training as accessible as possible. One such group is the Mercy Ships Safe Surgery Checklist team, who may spend weeks at a time travelling throughout host nations, working with hospital staff to deliver multidisciplinary checklist training, a tool that has been shown to improve surgical outcomes and patient safety by reducing mortality and morbidity. The end result is a long-lasting impact that requires minimal resources or training.
Join Us in Sharing Hope and Transforming Lives
Receiving hope and healing is a journey. From the patients and caregivers to healthcare partners and participants, accessing quality care and training usually involves travelling. And of course, we need professionals willing to volunteer their time to make these vital healthcare services possible. It takes more than nurses and surgeons – we also need vehicle mechanics, maritime crew, engineers, housekeeping staff, and so much more. If you’re drawn to adventure and want to use your skills to make a difference, find your place onboard today!