2018 September

ABOUTUS.OurFleet.AfricaMwercy

History

Acquired in 1999, MV Dronning Ingrid underwent conversion from a Danish rail ferry into the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship. Sponsored by corporate and individual donors, the purpose-built Africa Mercy has five operating rooms and an 82-bed ward.

Hospital

Africa Mercy’s hospital covers most of the original rail deck – approximately 1,200 square metres. It is divided into 5 wards with quadrants containing supply/services, five operating theatres, recovery/intensive care and low-dependency wards with 80 patient beds. Projected annual medical capacity is approximately 7,000 surgical procedures onboard including cataract removal /lens implants, tumour removal, cleft lip and palate reconstruction, orthopaedics and obstetric fistula repair. The hospital is well-equipped and contains a CT Scanner as well as X-ray, laboratory services and a Nikon Coolscope, which allow remote diagnosis almost instantaneously. Whenever required, diagnoses are transmitted via an onboard satellite communication system to doctors in developed countries.

Programs Ashore

In addition to the operations performed onboard, ship-based teams work in local villages providing a wide array of services to increase health and well-being which include dental clinics, medical clinics, community health education, HIV/AIDS intervention, water and sanitation projects including well drilling, construction, agriculture and micro-enterprise projects.

Accommodation

Africa Mercy has meeting and work spaces as well as berths for an average crew of 450. The 474 berths are split between 26 family cabins, 25 two-berth cabins for couples, and shared and single cabins for individual occupants.

Safety & Security

The vessel is fitted with an automatic sprinkler system throughout the accommodation and hospital areas. An addressable smoke detector system pinpoints the exact location of the source of any potential fire. Machinery spaces are covered by CO2 gas flooding system as well as a “Hi Fog” system which can be very effective in controlling localised fires in the machinery space. Gurkha security guards man the gangway 24 hours a day with metal detectors and other screening devices. They are backed up by CCTV around the vessel, while critical spaces such as the bridge and engine room remain locked at all times.

Current Flagship deployed 2007

Length: 152m Breadth: 23.7m Gross Tonnage: 16,572 Built: 1980 Elsinore, Denmark Registered: Malta Crew Capacity: 474 Cargo Capacity: 1,724m3 Main Engines: 4 B&W (3120 kW each) Draft: 6.0m Surveyed By: Lloyds Register

Africa Mercy sails under the flag of Malta and is maintained “in-class” with Lloyds Register as a passenger ship to international standards.

2018 September

Esther was full of charisma. The bright, bubbly six-year-old saw the joy in every situation. But Esther suffered with a windswept leg caused by rickets—a brittle bone condition that causes leg deformities. When children don’t get the nutrients they need at key stages of their growth, they can develop rickets. When Esther was only 18 months old, her leg was already growing the wrong way.

Her mother, Mabel, was a single parent who tried to find a way to fix her vibrant little girl’s twisted leg. She was told that nothing could be done and that it was too late.

As Esther grew up, she was treated differently due to her windswept leg, and her mother sadly watched as her little girl slowly became more reclusive. Esther’s true personality only emerged at home in the safe presence of those she knew wouldn’t tease her. The rest of her days were spent watching from the sidelines as her confidence faded. After she started school and the teasing increased, her energy and love for life diminished. The Esther that Mabel knew was disappearing before her eyes—scared of the unknown and unable to continue school.

‘She started to become distant and drew back from things that she would normally have jumped at. This made me sad because it’s not a true example of my Esther,’ recalls Mabel. ‘She would sink back into herself and not join in activities… that’s not my girl. My girl is bright, fun, and loving.’


 

Always on the move, uprooting their lives time and again, Mabel searched the country for a solution to her daughter’s condition. After he

aring about Mercy Ships through a friend, they made yet another journey to the port city—but this time it wasn’t a dead end. Esther was accepted for orthopaedic surgery to correct her windswept leg.

Time onboard the Africa Mercy saw Esther’s personality emerge like a butterfly from a cocoon. It didn’t take long for the crew to fall in love with her true personality. She thrived in the comfort of a loving and accepting environment, as evidenced by her endless giggles and smiles.

Esther’s pink cast and brightly coloured hair bands lit up the rehabilitation tent during weekly physical therapy sessions. As her bones grew stronger, so did her confidence, revealing the bold, beautiful daughter Mabel always knew was there.

‘Now, I have high hopes for her,’ said Mabel. ‘She will be able to go back to school to get an education for a bright future!’

Mabel is delighted with her daughter’s physical and emotional transformation. ‘We’ll all be dancing when we get home,’ she said. ‘And now, my Esther will finally be able to join in like she’s always wanted to!’

Story by Georgia Ainsworth

2018 September

Ebenezer couldn’t understand the sudden, horrendous pain in his feet that brought him to a halt. The little boy tried to brush away whatever was causing him agony, but the pain quickly spread to his hands. Ebenezer had stumbled into a hidden fire pit. Read Ebenezer’s story here

2018 September

As the Africa Mercy was preparing to sail to Guinea in 2014, a horrific epidemic was declared in West Africa. An Ebola outbreak in the region made it impossible for the Mercy Ship to enter.

The ship was diverted to Madagascar for two years. The people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone particularly were in the hearts and prayers of the Mercy Ships crew and staff around the world during this enforced separation, as many years had been spent serving patients in these nations with both the Anastasis and Africa Mercy.

In 21 months the Ebola crisis killed over 2,500 people in Guinea and five times more people across the region than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined. Families were torn apart, schools were closed and the fragile local economies were devastated as life came to a halt in the effort to contain the disease. Guinea was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation in December 2015.

Now Mercy Ships is finally able to return to Guinea as part of our commitment to sustainable healthcare development in the region. During the Africa Mercy’s 10-month stay in the port of Conakry, Republic of Guinea, Mercy Ships plans to provide 2,000 – 2,500 life-changing surgeries onboard, to treat over 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic as well as providing healthcare training to local healthcare professionals through mentoring and courses.

Previous Mercy Ships field services in Guinea took place in 1992 (with previous flagship Anastasis), 1998 (Anastasis) and 2012 (Africa Mercy)

2018 September

2018 September

When he was still a young man, the tumour on his face began to consume Sambany’s life. For 36 years it grew,and grew, and grew – until it became a monstrous burden weighing 7.46 kg.

40 STORIES OF HEALING: Day 12
‘I could not do anything,’ Sambany lamented.’Every day I was just waiting to die.’

Watch Sambany’s story here

Sambany lives in a remote Madagascan village. It took five people taking turns to carry him on their backs to reach the road. They hiked for days – into high altitudes and down again, canoed in hollowed-out logs, and waded through waist-high water – before finally finding a ride to the Mercy Ship in the port city.

The risky and complex surgery to remove Sambany’s enormous tumour took over 12 hours.

When Sambany looked in the mirror, seeing himself tumour-free for the first time, he classically stated, ‘I like it. I am happy!’ Later he added, ‘I am free from my disease. I’ve got a new face, I am saved.’

Kiwi writer Eunice was one of the people who made the arduous trek home with Sambany in 2015 after he recovered from surgery. She remarked, ‘The blood (donations) of 17 crew members, from 6 nations, literally poured life into him. My heart felt full over how our community had banded together for him; prayer meetings, concerned requests for updates, someone fasting…’

On the journey home, Sambany’s wife accidentally met them along the route. She didn’t even recognise her husband! They talked and talked as they made the remainder of the journey together.

Eunice was there when the village spokesperson decreed, ‘We are so happy because a friend who was about to die is alive! He was lost but now he is back!’

2018 September

The two and a half year old with twelve tiny braids pointing in all directions certainly isn’t the typical patient in the women’s health ward – thankfully.

40 STORIES OF HEALING: Day 10

In many parts of Africa, millions of girls like Kumbuna are still subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) each year – but the numbers were even greater in 2002 when Kumbuna was admitted to the Anastasis. She had been ‘circumcised’ at least six different times in her short life, beginning on her eighth day on earth, the day after her naming ceremony.

Kumbuna’s father was progressive; he wanted his daughters to remain untouched and opposed this cultural practice. But the village hierarchy of decision-making went against his wishes. His mother, a powerful figure in their tribe used her position of authority as well as position as the namesake, and insisted that the ritual take place. The wound created by razors or broken glass healed over Kumbuna’s urethra, making it nearly impossible for the little girl to urinate. Five times they tried to recreate an opening; five times it healed over.

After the Grandmother died, Kumbuna’s Mum brought her to the Anastasis for help. When the toddler arrived she could only pass a trickle of water once a day – while she was walking.
The Mercy Ships surgeons successfully performed the essential operation, but the healing process was agony for the little girl. But finally, the pain stopped as the wound healed. Never had a mother been so delighted when her daughter headed off to the toilet.

Kumbuna received her free surgery in 2002, and FGM was finally outlawed in The Gambia in 2015. Sadly, the FGM rate in The Gambia remains high at 76.3% in 2013 – although the figure had been slowly dropping.

Please take a moment to pray for the girls and women in The Gambia to be freed from FGM

2018 September

As Catherine’s struggled to give birth, her family’s apprehension grew. After four days of labour without medical care, the 18- year-old was exhausted, frightened and in terrible pain. The life of both mum and baby hung in the balance.

40 STORIES OF HEALING: Day 10

Like any new parents, Catherine and Augustine excitedly awaited the birth of their first child. But as Catherine’s labour continued for a number of days, the family’s apprehension grew. After four days of labour without medical care, the 18- year-old was exhausted, frightened and in terrible pain. Her family was unable to come up with the cost of a Caesarean section – six month’s wages in Sierra Leone in 1993 (around NZ$170)

The teenager was left in the hospital hallway to labour until she and the baby gave up the battle. ‘At the time, I was thinking I am going to die’, Catherine recalls.

Mercy Ships anaesthetist Keith Thomson’s schedule had been cancelled on board the Anastasis that day, so he visited the local hospital in Freetown, where the ship was docked.

When he saw Catherine’s situation and discovered why she and her unborn baby were abandoned without help or pain relief, he immediately paid for her treatment. ‘In Sierra Leone, that was the theme of the day,’ explains Catherine. ‘If you didn’t have money, you didn’t have access to treatment. We were all shocked when Keith offered to pay.’

A healthy Tina Regina was born, and so began a friendship between doctor and family that has spanned continents and 25 years. After the traumatic delivery, Dr Keith remained in contact with the family, even helping them to flee to Guinea during Sierra Leone’s civil war… (more below)

In 2000, Dr Keith came to the aid of the family again, when Guinea expelled English-speaking refugees. Augustine was thrown into prison for five days. Dr Keith helped them find flights out of the country and arranged for a place to stay in Ghana.

‘I really appreciate what Dr Keith did, and what he and his family are still doing, for my family,’ shared Tina. ‘Some other person might have saved my mum’s life and lost communication, but he has helped us all these years.’

The Contehs were eventually recognised as refugees and immigrated to Australia.‘My parents told me when I was growing up, You are a miracle – don’t forget that’, Tina explains.

The life-long story of mercy’s reach came full circle for Tina in 2011, when she was 18 years old. She signed up to volunteer aboard the Mercy Ship herself, during a return field service to Sierra Leone. ‘Put simply, it is thanks to Mercy Ships that both my mother and I are alive today’, she said at the time. ‘That alone makes me want to give something back.’

2018 September

Jimmy had been burned when he was very young. Now he slept rough, on a mat in the corner of the town marketplace. His painful infections were so serious he would die without intervention.

40 STORIES OF HEALING: Day 9

Jimmy was homeless, and his severe wounds from childhood burns had never been properly treated. He was suffering terribly as toxins built in his body. Kiwi nurse Vivien first met Jimmy when she accompanied his surgeon on plastic surgery rounds soon after he was admitted to the Mercy Ship.

Vivien explains, ‘Jimmy’s leg had been amputated on board the day before. ‘He was 28, so only a couple of years younger than me. I expected to see someone downcast. But instead, Jimmy had the largest and most infectious smile. He could not stop thanking us for helping him.’

For Jimmy, the removal of his leg was also the end of years of pain resulting from his childhood injury.

Note: Vivien doesn’t appear in the images

‘I loved his positivity,’ Vivien reflected. ‘Even after all he had been through, and not experiencing much love in his life at all, he radiated love in such a huge way. There were so many hugs, so much laughter and so much talking over the months that he was there.

‘I loved his positivity,’ Vivien reflected. ‘Even after all he had been through, and not experiencing much love in his life at all, he radiated love in such a huge way. There were so many hugs, so much laughter and so much talking over the months that he was there.

2018 September

It was about 9pm in Honduras when Antonio, Paula and 10-year-old daughter Maria headed for bed. A knock came on the door, ‘Police! Police! Open up!’

40 STORIES OF HEALING: Day 8
An honest farmer, Antonio had nothing to hide from the police, so he opened the door. It was a fatal mistake. Seven young men from a street gang burst into the room. Antonio was shot and killed outright. Paula, shot in the stomach and ankle, collapsed in agony on the floor. Maria climbed out a bedroom window and escaped in the darkness to her sister Mariana’s house.

Later that night Paula was transported to the emergency room where doctors treated her stomach wound. She lay in Emergency for 30 days, plus 21 more days in a crowded hospital corridor. Then a Mercy Ships Orthopedic team visited Honduras in 2003. They would repair Paula’s ankle.

Crewmember Helen was visiting Paula’s bedside when she complained the open sore on her back hurt whenever she moved. Helen called the team nurse who examined the sore and discovered a bullet just below the surface! The Mercy Ship anaesthetist and Orthopedic team leader extracted a .38 calibre bullet. Paula kept it as a souvenir.

One day shortly after Paula asked Helen to cut her hair, which had received very little attention during her 51 days in bed. Helen had been her family’s barber for over 50 years. A time for Paula’s glamour haircut was arranged.

Barbering a patient with two bullet wounds and lying in a hospital bed posed some new challenges. Paula sat up while Helen cut out the matted tangles, then carefully combed out Paula’s long, black, unkempt hair. After Paula lay down again on her stomach with her head hanging over the end of the bed, her daughter Mariana and Helen washed her hair. They used several basins with multiple trips carrying water from a small sink. Finally, with Paula sitting up again and following Helen’s customary prayer, the haircut began.

After Helen created an attractive fringe on Paula’s forehead, I teased her that when we were done she would look like a teenager again. Paula is 54 and when she smiles you can see that all her front teeth are either missing or just rotted stubs. We then found out that the 5,000 Lempira ($294 USD) the gang members stole that fateful night was set aside for two things: Antonio dreamed of owning a cow, and Paula hoped to get her teeth fixed.

When Helen was nearly done with the haircut, she said, ‘Paula, I’m curious, why did you ask me for a haircut, when you hardly know me?’ The answer shows how far a small act of kindness can go. Paula said, ‘Remember the very first day you visited me? I was in a lot of pain when you stopped by and held my hand. You talked to me kindly, and it made me so happy. I wanted a haircut so I’d have something to remember you by.’

The haircut was finished, the floor swept. Since the only mirror was over the small sink attached to the wall, Paula got out of bed, and refusing any help, she hopped on her one good leg to the mirror. We all held our breath, and then. . . Paula smiled.

A few days later, our Mercy Ships van pulled off the main road into Choloma. We were looking for a small green coloured house. After a couple of wrong turns, then a left at a building spray-painted with gang graffiti, we found her daughter’s house. The hospital provided a bodyguard when we travelled on medically related visits, and now, armed with a shotgun, he took up his position nearby. We entered a small one-room house that seemed to be home for seven people and an unknown number of termites.

Paula was lying on a cot in the corner. The room was already stifling hot, even though it was only mid-morning. Our translator said, ‘Paula, we are here for two reasons—first, we wanted to see how you are. Secondly, we understand that the gang stole all the money you intended to use for your teeth. The Mercy Ship team took an offering this morning and we arranged with a dentist in San Pedro Sula to get your dental work done. It won’t cost you anything. We can take you into town today if you want to go, and he can get started.’

Paula seemed a little bewildered as she took it all in. She sat up and looked at her daughter Mariana for reassurance. And then, once again . . . Paula smiled.

Story by Larry Mast