Meet Emmanuel

Emmanuel’s journey to healing began years ago, when he first noticed something growing on his neck.

A Burden Lifted

Of all the birthdays he’d celebrated in his life, the year Emmanuel turned 43 would forever be remembered as the most extraordinary. 

Just a few days after his birthday, Emmanuel was wheeled into an operating room on board the Global Mercy hospital ship, where he became the very first Sierra Leone patient of the 2023-2024 field service, an opportunity he never believed possible. 

“It is a double portion of blessings!” Emmanuel said, celebrating. “This is one of the happiest days of my life!”

Emmanuel’s journey began a few years ago when he first noticed something growing on his neck. At the time, he dismissed it, hoping it would eventually fade away.  

“At first, I thought it was a toothache, and then I thought maybe it was a cold sore,” he remembered. Unfortunately, the small bump quickly revealed itself to be a tumor that would continue to grow with each passing year. Within four years, it had grown to the size of his fist. 

According to Dr. Mustapha Kabba, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Clinical Services for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation, no certified maxillofacial specialist surgeons were practicing in Sierra Leone. So, even if Emmanuel could have afforded the surgery, no one could perform it. Instead, he was forced to live with his condition, and as the tumor grew, so did his worry about the future. Fear of further complications weighed heavily on his shoulders.  

“I always wondered when it would burst,” he revealed. “It’s not good to have those thoughts all the time.” 

After several years of waiting, Emmanuel caught his first breath of renewed hope when he heard that a hospital ship would soon be sailing to his hometown — to provide free surgical care to patients like him. 

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“We have been hearing about the ship for a long time, and we have been praying for you to come,” he shared. “Emmanuel means God with us. God is with us, and God is with Mercy Ships!” 

Emmanuel decided to keep his possible healing a secret from his family, coming to Mercy Ships alone. While on board, though, the volunteers stepped in to support him, becoming his family away from home. And soon, Emmanuel’s surgery was finished, his life and spirit once again filled with promise. 

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“I will continue with my business,” he said. “I don’t have to worry anymore.”

After a series of follow-up appointments on board to ensure he had healed fully, it was time for Emmanuel to return home and reunite with his community. Once there, he found he was free from more than just fear of the future. He also felt free from the shame that had weighed him down for years. 

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“I now can pull my hair back,” Emmanuel said, beaming with pride. “I used to hide and walk in shame, with my head down and covering my face. Now, I can pull my hair back and walk down the street with my head held high, with confidence.”