IAmA Canadian nurse volunteering on a hospital ship in West Africa, helping deliver free, safe surgery to the developing world. AMA!
A couple years ago I did an AMA after my second time serving aboard the Africa Mercy...now I'm back on board for the 4th time in Conakry, Guinea, and I thought it was time for round two!
Mercy Ships is an international NGO that has spent the past 40 years using ships as a platform for healthcare delivery in the developing world. Fun fact: 40% of the worlds population lives within 100 km of a port city. Another fun fact: 5 BILLION people in the world don't have access to safe, timely, and affordable surgery. Reaching out to the people in the greatest need, Mercy Ships is committed to changing those statistics in two key ways: first, by providing free surgery and dental treatment; second, by providing training, equipment, and mentorship opportunities to medical professionals within the host country. This is having tangible results, as even in the 5 years since the ship's last field service in Guinea, the number of cleft lip cases has drastically decreased.
Although some of the problems we see here are unpreventable and could occur anywhere in the world, many of our patients have very extreme cases. The issues we're able to treat include:
(Fair warning, some of these are medical photos that might make some folks squeamish)
- Cleft Lips & Palates
- Orthopedic Defects (club foot, bow-leg, windswept legs, or knock-knees)
- Maxillary, Mandibular & Cranial Tumors
- Soft-tissue Tumors (Lipomas)
- Burn Contractures
- Noma Reconstruction
- Uterine Fibroids
- Obstetric Fistulas
- Oral Health
- Palliative Care
I primarily work with adult, general surgery patients (including goiters, women's health, hernias, and lipomas), but part of volunteering here is being flexible to be thrown into almost any place there's a need. I love this place and consider it a privilege and honor to serve here and to spread the word about our work!
EDIT: I gotta go grab some dinner here, but I'll try to be back around 7 GMT!
EDIT 2: Need to get some sleep before my shift in the morning, but thanks all for the engaging discussion and questions.
EDIT 3: Wow this got bigger than I expected. Thanks for the gold!
Disclaimer: Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.