Friday, March 22, 2013

11 Kids 1 Week After Cataract Surgery

Share the joy of these kids playing in the ward just one week after sight restoring cataract surgery on board the Africa Mercy.

If you cannot see the video below, click HERE!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mamadou's Many Abilities

Mamadou prayed silently to himself, asking God for just one more ounce of courage as he waited alone at the Mercy Ships patient screening in Conakry, Guinea. Mamadou tried to blend in with the other adults, silently shifting from chair to chair as the line-up of patients advanced.

As he waited, Mamadou held his arms, bent inward at the wrists and elbows, close to his chest. He felt awkward and uncomfortable. So many times in his life people had insulted him and chased him away as they yelled, “That boy is cursed! His arms are devil arms!”

Mamadou had not told his family – including his Aunt Hadja, with whom he lived – that he had come to the Mercy Ships screening. He did not want to disappoint anyone if he could not have surgery.

A beggar’s life
Mamadou lived with his aunt in Conakry so he could beg on the traffic-choked streets. His mother and father, in the city of Mamou, had tried to find an apprenticeship for him so he could have an occupation, but his arms were not strong enough to carry wood or hammer nails. So, because the family was desperately poor, they relied on their eldest son to use his deformity to earn money for the family by begging.

But Mamadou wanted something much different for himself, and all he needed was arms that looked normal. If he had no deformity, he would not be expected to beg. He wanted to use his sharp intellect to learn English, as this language came easy to him. And if he looked normal, it would not be strange at all if he supported his family through his own business.

Mamadou knew he could do those things now, even with bent arms, but he was the only one who could see past his deformity. As Mamadou confided to the Mercy Ships nurse who examined him, “I can do much more than people think.” He added proudly, “I make good use of my arms to take care of myself and help support my family. I do not want to beg for the rest of my life, but I have learned to do it very well.

With the money I earned from begging, I bought sheep. Now, the lambs from those sheep feed my family.”

A new hope
Mercy Ships was Mamadou’s only hope, and he was grateful to be accepted for treatment. He now felt comfortable sharing the good news with his parents. Mamadou explains, “My condition was a huge burden on my parents. There was so much disappointment and shame that I had to beg for the family to survive. I wanted to be certain that Mercy Ships would do my surgery before I said anything to them.”

His mother and his one-year old sister came to stay with him. His father assured him that the family would get by during the many months that Mamadou would be in the hospital and recovering. Relatives would be called upon to help, and Thierno would find extra work in Mamou. They wanted to support Mamadou’s dream of having his own business and living like any normal young man.

Radial club hands
Onboard the Africa Mercy hospital ship, volunteer plastics surgeon, Dr. Tertius Venter, explained Mamadou’s rarely seen condition. “Mamadou was born with radial club hands and only four fingers on each hand. The front sides of his hands are underdeveloped and bend downward on an angle. His elbow joints have also been affected.

On his left arm, the joint is working fairly well – but, on the right side, the joint is stiff and cannot bend all of the way.”

Since Mamadou’s left elbow was functional, Dr. Tertius proceeded with a two-stage rehabilitation of the left arm. In the first surgery, Dr. Tertius aligned Mamadou’s left hand with his forearm. In six months, when Dr. Tertius returns to Mercy Ships, he will take Mamadou’s index finger and reposition it to create a thumb. Mamadou’s left arm will look and function almost completely normally.

Sadly, Dr. Tertius determined that no surgery could improve the functioning of Mamadou’s right arm. He explained to Mamadou, “With your right elbow joint in its bent position, like it is now, your right hand is close enough to your body and other hand to be of help. But that right elbow joint can never be made to move and flex. All I can do is set the elbow joint so that your arm is straight. But then, your hand would be out of reach of your other hand and your body and be far less useful to you. The best thing I can do for you is to leave your right arm completely as is.”

Mamadou is determined
For Mamadou, the prospect of one normal arm and one still misshapen arm did not dampen his determination to learn languages and have his own business. He had already proven himself quite capable by becoming a successful sheep owner and lamb producer – even with two bent arms. Just think of what he could accomplish with one fully functioning arm and a hand that could continue to help!

Mamadou looked forward to the months of recovery time before his second surgery. He spoke excitedly to his mother, “I want Uncle Alpha to teach me all about his clothing business in the big market. But most of all, I want to learn how to say something I have in my heart in English: ‘Thank you, Mercy Ships, for giving me the hope and courage to show the world that I, like any normal eldest son, can support his family with the many abilities God did give me.’”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Long Journey to Healing!

What could possibly compel a poor woman in West Africa to travel over 1000 kilometers – a journey that would take six months and exhaust all of her resources and ingenuity – to get to a hospital ship? The answer is stark in its simplicity – the journey was born out of a desperate, fragile hope that she could find healing and restoration.

Binta lives in southeast Guinea. Six months ago, a man in her village told her about news he had heard on the radio – a hospital ship was coming to the nation’s capital, Conakry. “The ship has doctors that can help you,” the man said.

A devastating childbirth injury

Binta is in her late thirties and has suffered from vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), a devastating childbirth injury, since she was a teenager. During several days of prolonged, obstructed labor, Binta’s baby was stillborn during a traumatizing delivery. The injury to her birth canal made Binta incontinent; she has been continuously leaking urine for years. Her condition made her an outcast within her own remote village. But now there was news that she could be “fixed” . . . and she dared to hope.

A journey into the unknown

With the little money she had, Binta set out on her journey – a trip that was filled with new experiences.
She traveled from her village in the dense rainforest region to the city of Senko. Once there, she used what little money she had to pay for transportation to the next city – Beyla. It was her first time to ever ride in a car.

From Beyla to Nzerekore to Macenta to Gueckedou to Kissidougou to Conakry – a blur of new sights and sounds. She stopped when she had to, staying in one city for up to two months where she worked doing laundry to save enough money for the next leg of her journey. She paid people with cars or motorbikes to give her a lift. Binta traveled more than 661 miles (1063 km) in 6 months to seek help from Mercy Ships.

At last, a surgery and a new life!

Finally, she arrived on the dock – with no money and only the clothes on her back. “It was something inside of me that told me, ‘Do it!’” Binta said. The Africa Mercy is the first ship she has ever seen.

Last week, Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon Dr. Steve Arrowsmith repaired Binta’s fistula. Today she is dry. She no longer leaks urine; she no longer smells. And now, Binta longs to return home to her sister’s children, triplets, whom she has cared for since her sister passed away in 2011. Because there are no phones there, Binta hasn’t spoken with her family since she left. Fortunately, she will get home to them soon – a much simpler journey this time, with assistance from Mercy Ships.

And Binta will leave Mercy Ships with a dry skirt, a full heart and a new life. Her courage has been rewarded, her hope has been reborn, and her life has been restored!

Friday, March 1, 2013


Haha, this short animation is from Bird Box Studios from the UK...

If you cannot see the video below, click HERE!