15 February 2018
Mercy Ships is an international organisation that operates the largest charity-run hospital ship in the world. This incredible ship is crewed by volunteers who provide free surgery and medical care to some of the poorest people in the world.
Did you know that two out of three people in world cannot get safe, affordable surgery when they need it? Something we take for granted in the UK simply isn’t an option to vast swathes of the world’s population. Here is a story about how Mercy Ships transformed one family’s life in Africa.
“When I gave birth to Dorkas, she was a healthy baby,” says her mother, Nicole. But soon she realised that her daughter was constantly squinting.
Then, three years later, Nicole had a second daughter, Anna. “I couldn’t believe it,” says Nicole. “Her vision was even worse than her sister’s.” To have not one, but two, children who could not see weighed heavily on Nicole, who was raising her children alone. “Was this because of some sin I have committed?” she wondered. “Is it a curse?” In reality, the little girls’ condition was genetic.
Dorkas and Anna were just two of the 320,000 blind children in subSaharan Africa. Most of these children would be able to see if they had access to modern medicine.
Nicole didn’t know that her children’s condition could be cured, but she sought help anyway. She took her daughters to the national hospital in Togo. An ophthalmologist examined the girls and quickly diagnosed their condition as cataracts. But there was no surgeon to help them.
“We waited and waited and waited,” says Nicole. Nothing ever came of it.Then Nicole heard that Mercy Ships hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, was close by, and they could treat children’s cataracts.
“I went hopefully to them,” she says, making the trip from Togo to neighbouring Benin. It was worth all the effort. Nicole left the patient screening site with yellow cards – the signal that her daughters were scheduled for free surgeries.
“It was then that I started to believe,” says Nicole. “But I was still praying and wondering if they would really be able to see after the operation. I was not yet confident.”
Anna and Dorkas were operated on in the same morning. Six-year-old Dorkas came through fine, but Nicole was far more worried about her younger daughter, two-year-old Anna, because her vision had been much worse.
After Anna’s surgery, volunteer eye surgeon Dr Bob Burlingame went to the wards looking for Nicole, who had stepped out.
“I asked the translator to tell her that everything went very, very well, and that I expected Anna to see much, much better,” he says. The translator left the room, and only seconds later Dr Bob heard Nicole shout from the other end of the hall, “Praise God! Praise God! Mercy has saved my baby’s sight.”
And she came running down the hall, shouting and praising God.
Donate for Mercy Ships UK HERE.