We have seen 1,128 patients come up and down our gangway. We have seen lives transformed before us and seen miracles happen in the ORs… airways cleared, babies intubated without complications, and most recently, a dental patient admitted and lifesaving surgery performed. Deck 3 is a sacred place, not because of the medical staff but because of the beautiful work God does down there using the surgeons, nurses, sterilizers, radiologists and so many more.
There’s a simple story that so many of us in Mercy Ships know and have come to identify with :
So here are some of the Starfish from our field service.
Tojo discovered hope and hopelessness at the same time: a cure was possible for his son … but the treatment cost around one million ariary (~$380 USD), an amount beyond his imagination. One night the radio told him about Mercy Ships coming to help. At 6 a.m. the next day, the morning sun found father and son waiting in our screening line. Months later, our dock felt the pitter-patter of Rajo running around … on straight feet! Today, this is how Tojo feels about his son, “There was never, ever happiness like what I have now happening in my life.”
It’s easy to see why we instantly fell in love with Fandresena, the six year old boy with a cheeky grin, who made us smile and laugh each time he greeted us. The smile hid a painful tragedy, a house fire that burned his right hand and made it impossible for him to color, write or play catch like all little boys.
Fandresena went through months of physical therapy to regain the full use of his right hand. Luckily, our therapists know how to make therapy fun! A little clay goes a long way towards making a little boy smile. Fandresena returns home with endless possibilities as he now has two good hands to write, color and play catch with!
Mamisy came to us with no nose or upper lip … but he left us having both. The hole that was left in his face, and in his family’s hearts, by a flesh-eating condition called noma fifteen years ago, is now gone!
Check out how Dr. Gary and the other maxfax surgeons reconstruct a missing nose (you can also test out your Malagasy)
And there was Zafiline…
Zafiline wanted to have children and start a family. She wanted to be able to sleep, eat and live life normally, but a tumor growing on her jaw stood in the way of her dream. Zafiline was severely malnourished when she arrived on the #AfricaMercy. She was given a protein-rich substitute and was told by doctors on board to “eat everything in sight!” Within 10 days she gained enough weight to have her life-changing surgery. It didn’t take long after surgery to see Zafiline’s amazing transformation. Not only was her tumor gone, she looked years younger. Zafiline’s mother saw her after surgery and said, “Thank you God for what you have done.”
The beauty of Zafiline’s face finally matches the beauty we’ve seen in her eyes from the day we met her. Her healing was possible because of donors, volunteers and supporters like you from around the world. Thank you for setting Zafiline on the path to hope and healing!
You may have heard about Sambany. Around 36 years ago, a tumor began to grow until it became what you see here: a burden the size of two heads. This tumor also became a burden of his heart: some people rejected him, asked him, ‘Why are you still alive?’ Unrelenting in growth, the tumor sometimes felt ‘hot like fire.’ Eventually, he became so weak that he couldn’t do anything. His life lost meaning. He told us, “One year ago, I was waiting to die. I could not do anything. Every day, I was just waiting to die.”
It was a radio announcement that saved Sambany. A hospital ship that could treat tumors was coming to his country! Due to his weakened condition, it was a journey only a desperate man would undertake, but Sambany was determined, “I want to go if there is someone who can help me! Die or survive, I want to go!” To make it from his rural village to the ship, Sambany had to sell a rice field, be carried on the backs of 6 people for 2 days through the bush, a 6-hour ride in a packed bus, and relying on a stranger’s kindness when they ran out of money. But eventually Sambany arrived at the foot of oIt was a radio announcement that saved Sambany. A hospital ship that could treat tumors was coming to his country! Due to his weakened condition, it was a journey only a desperate man would undertake, but Sambany was determined, “I want to go if there is someone who can help me! Die or survive, I want to go!” To make it from his rural village to the ship, Sambany had to sell a rice field, be carried on the backs of 6 people for 2 days through the bush, a 6-hour ride in a packed bus, and relying on a stranger’s kindness when they ran out of money. But eventually Sambany arrived at the foot of our gangway.
Due to concerns over his health, it took nearly two weeks of deliberation before the medical team and Sambany reached their decision: to go ahead with his surgery. The day before his surgery, Sambany wasn’t nervous. He said, “My heart is very, very happy. I’m very happy. I’m just happy.”
“I know without surgery I will die. I know I might die in surgery, but I already feel dead inside from the way I’m treated. I choose to have surgery.”
Although the people directly involved in Sambany’s surgery within the operating room numbered eight, the true number of people involved was in the hundreds. The hospital staff, all the crew, the local day crew, hundreds dedicated themselves to loving one man. Together they fought a battle against this tumor – from the prayers that were said over him, to our eager crew members who donated blood for him, to the conversations of compassion that filled our midst; all thoughts were on Sambany during his surgery. It was a historic moment for the #AfricaMercy.
Nestore came to us hobbling on his clubbed foot, unable to keep up with his friends and run down the ball in a soccer match. After an orthopedic surgery, months in a cast and a whole lot of rehab, Nestore is walking flat on his left foot for the first time in his life! His favorite part of his Mercy Ships experience? “The nurses, really caring for people and loving people.”
A large pot of boiling oil. A little girl playing nearby. Together, this equals a dangerous equation. Marie Sylvie fell into the pot. The frantic cries that ensued alerted her parents, who rushed to her side. Her young skin was falling off as they pulled her out. She was only two years old.
Marie Sylvie’s parents’ despair over her disaster, drove them to travel widely in search of help. Each journey took them further into despair. Again and again they journeyed for days to reach a hospital only to leave, unable to afford the cost of surgery.
“The problem was always the money. Always the money,” Felicie, Marie Sylvie’s mother, tells us. Failed treatments and the search for solutions burned up millions of ariary (Malagasy currency) over 4 years. “It would have been impossible for us to find the money to do surgery.”
Marie Sylvie’s giggling was a delightful sound on our ship as she recovered from surgery. She has made many friends with crew members and other patients. It is a heart-warming reminder of how our ship not only offers free physical healing, but also deep things of the heart: love and hope.
The impossible has become possible: Marie Sylvie’s left arm is free from being stuck to her body! She can finally wear normal-sized clothes, play more games with her friends, and look more like the others! The best part? She is only one in thousands of patients whose lives have been utterly transformed, for free.
All of these people’s lives changed when they went through this door, they went in with tumors, burn contractions, goiters, hernias, deformities and windswept legs. They came out new and forever changed.
And this is only the beginning…. we still have another 10 months in Madagascar… I can only imagine the stories we will hear and be a part of next year.