A man has gotten a life-saving surgery on the world’s largest hospital ship.
A 43-year-old man, who was concerned about living with a facial tumour indefinitely, became the inaugural recipient of surgery onboard the Global Mercy, the largest civilian hospital ship in the world.
The surgery took place on Tuesday, September 12, at the Port of Freetown, following the ship’s recent arrival.
Emmanuel, a father-of-one from Freetown, Sierra Leone, initially mistook the small lump in his mouth for toothache or a cold sore. Unfortunately, the lump continued to grow despite medication, causing him constant worry about its potential complications.
However, his outlook changed when he became the first person to undergo surgery aboard the Global Mercy, which plans to perform over 2,350 surgeries during its 10-month stay in Freetown.
Emmanuel, who has kept the surgery a secret from both his son and father to surprise them in person, said, “I am so happy to be heading to the ship today. This is one of the happiest days of my life.”
His aunt said, “After surgery, I hope he can come back and become a witness for what is possible.”
Sierra Leone, with a population of 8.4 million people, currently lacks fully certified maxillofacial specialist surgeons, as stated by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Clinical Services for the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Mustapha Kabba.
Kabba said, “We have primary healthcare systems that are up and running, but we really need specialised people.”
He expressed his appreciation for the assistance provided by Mercy Ships in performing challenging surgeries like these.
American International Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mark Shrime, and Swiss oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Didier-David Malis, collaborated to carry out the surgery. Shrime took the lead, while a diverse team of professionals from different countries generously volunteered their skills and time on this exceptional hospital ship.
Australian volunteer Hospital Director Keren Fuhrmeister said, “The first day of surgery for us is the one we’ve all been waiting for, because it shows the start of our journey here.
“We are not only providing the surgeries that our patients need, but we want to partner with the country of Sierra Leone to provide mentoring, training, and a platform where we can best serve our patients and strengthen their health system.”
This is the sixth time that a Mercy Ship has visited Sierra Leone since 1992. The newly operational Global Mercy will focus on providing specialised surgical care in areas such as Maxillofacial, General, Paediatric Specialised General, Orthopaedic, Reconstructive Plastics, and Ophthalmology.
In addition to being a hospital, the Global Mercy also serves as a training centre, offering hundreds of hours of training over the next ten months in collaboration with local partners. The goal is to train over 200 healthcare professionals in various surgical education courses.
Throughout five previous field services, Mercy Ships has worked closely with the government of Sierra Leone to deliver safe and cost-free surgeries to a total of 9,548 patients.