A Burden Lifted

mercy-ships-blog-first-patient-sierra-leone-feature

Surgeries begin in Sierra Leone

Emmanuel walked up the gangway of the Global Mercy, filled with cautious hope. After years of struggle, the 43-year-old was about to receive surgery that would forever change his life.

Emmanuel was the very first patient to receive surgery during the field service in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The significance of this moment was not lost on him. Emmanuel, who had just celebrated his birthday a few days earlier, felt that the timing had turned his birthday month into something extraordinary. “It is a double portion of blessings,” he celebrated.

When he noticed the tumor years ago, he thought it was only a minor concern, a flicker of worry that he hoped would fade away with time.

“At first, I thought it was a toothache, and then I thought maybe it was a cold sore.”

Yet, instead of receding, the tumor grew relentlessly.

Four years later, it had grown to the size of a fist. Though the tumor was benign, its placement meant that it would take a maxillofacial surgeon to remove it. Unfortunately, at the time, there were no surgeons who specialized in that area, so Emmanual was forced to live with his condition. But the constant worry and fear of further complications weighed heavily on his shoulders.

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

A Ship’s Arrival and an Answered Prayer

mercy-ships-blog-first-patient-sierra-leone-1

When he heard about the arrival of the Global Mercy, he sought help from the volunteer team conducting screenings in the country. “We have been hearing about the ship for a long time, and we have been praying for you to come,” he told the Mercy Ships team.

For Emmanuel, whose name fittingly means “God with us,” this prayer was answered when he arrived on board the hospital ship.

Dr. Mark Shrime, the International Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Ships, was the lead surgeon in Emmanuel’s surgery. He explained that without surgical intervention, the tumor would likely continue to grow, which “would have paved the way for potentially severe complications down the road.”

In a remarkable twist, it took just 48 minutes to remove Emmanuel’s tumor surgically.

Emmanuel had kept the surgery a secret from his family so that he could surprise them in person. “I am hoping for positive results,” he whispered in anticipation right before his operation. But one look at himself after the successful surgery left him calling his family to share the good news!

As he recovered in the wards, Emmanuel’s thoughts turned to the future and all the possibilities ahead. “I will continue with my business…I don’t have to worry anymore,” he said. His journey toward healing has begun, and the burdens that had once weighed him down were lifted.

A Season of Hope and Healing

mercy-ships-blog-first-patient-sierra-leone-2

Emmanual is just one of the many patients that will walk up the Global Mercy’s gangway in search of hope and healing during our time in Sierra Leone.

The ship’s arrival, which was in response to an invitation from the country’s president, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, marked its inaugural presence in Sierra Leone. However, it was the sixth time that a Mercy Ships vessel has been welcomed to the nation. The enduring partnership between Mercy Ships and Sierra Leone has flourished over three decades, embodying a legacy of hope and transformation.

For hospital director Keren Fuhrmeister, Emmanuel’s surgery marked the beginning of what she hoped would be a field service filled with impact: “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.”

Over the next 10 months, more than 2,350 lifesaving and life-changing operations will be performed on board.

But the ship’s vision doesn’t end there. “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,” explained Keren.

Through this combination of direct surgical care and training, Mercy Ships continues living its mission of bringing hope and healing, following the 2,000-year-old model of Jesus.

Stay tuned to see more stories of hope and healing in action as the Global Mercy welcomes many more patients like Emmanuel on board!