Anjara’s Renewed Smile

mercy-ships-blog-first-patient-madagascar-feature

Our Hospital Ship Welcomes First Patient from Madagascar

When Lalaina received news of her daughter’s surgery date, her joy knew no bounds. This was not the first time she had waited for something so precious. After her son turned 5 years old, Lalaina prayed and waited for ten years before she could finally conceive again. So, she named her daughter Anjara, meaning ‘destiny,’ “for she is truly given to us by God.”   

mercy-ships-blog-first-patient-madagascar-1

“She is a very funny and wise baby,” Lalaina shared. “She will get to know you first before she smiles or plays with you.” 

Anjara was born with a bilateral cleft lip ten months ago. Since then, her mother had been praying for the ships’ return to Madagascar.  

“I thank God that Mercy Ships is here so they can help fix my baby’s cleft lip,” she said in gratitude.  

Though she typically works to help support her family, Lalaina believes her daughter’s surgery is her topmost priority and has completely dedicated her time to helping her child walk this new journey of hope and healing.  

A Commitment to the Island Nation  

In February 2024, the Africa Mercy arrived in Toamasina, Madagascar, to begin our fourth field service in the beautiful island nation. 

“It’s a really exciting day because it’s the culmination of many years of work in preparation to return to Madagascar,” the Africa Mercy’s managing director, Nathan Jansen, shared.

Over the course of three previous field services, Mercy Ships has worked with the country’s government and Ministry of Health to provide more than 6,000 surgical procedures and over 52,000 dental procedures. In addition, 2,019 healthcare professionals in the country have received training from Mercy Ships.  

mercy-ships-blog-first-patient-madagascar-2

Dr. Lethicia Lydia Yasmine, Madagascar’s Secretary General of the Ministry of Health, believes lack of staff, reduced capacity, resource limitations, and inequity in access to surgical care are the biggest obstacles to advancing medical care in her country. 

For operating room clinical supervisor Alison Herbert, this moment marks her 56th trip to the ship. Having had the opportunity to travel across Madagascar and seeing this great surgical need firsthand, she couldn’t be more elated: “I am excited to be able to get our patients on board. To start looking after our patients and just be able to bring hope and healing to so many people in Madagascar.” 

During this year’s service in Madagascar, Mercy Ships plans to provide direct medical services to more than 1,000 patients, simultaneously mentoring and training healthcare professionals to strengthen surgical and anesthetic systems in the country.  

A New Chapter 

After many months of logistical duties, equipping the hospital, building relationships with the government and people of Madagascar, and selecting patients for surgery — the Africa Mercy has finally opened her hospital and operating rooms to the people of Madagascar. 

“We have been doing a lot of cleaning, we’ve been checking our supplies, we’ve been doing a lot of training with our national crew, scenarios, practice runs, we’ve been setting up operating rooms, hospital wards, practicing drills — all with the goal of our first surgery,” Merryl Mackenzie, the hospital director explained.

The day Anjara was wheeled into the operating room was officially the beginning of a new season for Mercy Ships, providing surgeries on board two ships in Africa for the first time.  

“Now we are a hospital system where we are sharing, across two ships, all our resources,” Jansen said. “So, it’s a really special moment for Mercy Ships. It is just amazing to span the east and west of Africa. It really is the beginning of the next chapter.”  

This is also a huge moment for the newly refitted Africa Mercy following renovations across the whole ship to ensure an even higher quality of care for patients. After nearly two years of preparing, she is ready to bring free and safe surgeries to those who cannot access them, beginning with Anjara.  

Surgery Day, May 28 

Since Anjara’s birth, Lalaina has shouldered the guilt of desiring a second child and the blame for her daughter’s cleft lip. Though her family has continued to show her love and support, she is unable to fully come into the profound joy of motherhood. But at last, just two days after Mother’s Day celebration in Madagascar, Lalaina’s joy was restored. 

mercy-ships-blog-first-patient-madagascar-3

“…Father, may your kingdom come on earth. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And in Your grace and mercy, may we be part of this amazing transformation. Longtime volunteer surgeon Dr. Gary Parker said a prayer before walking into the operating room with Anjara — while every volunteer crew aboard paused to honor the moment. 

Anjara went into surgery with Dr. Gary’s prayer and the love of the volunteer crew on board and all over the world. She also had her mother’s love and presence waiting for her outside of the operating room and at home, her family waiting for her in prayer and hope.  

“I thank God for sending Mercy Ships to be used as an instrument to do her surgery so that she will be like other kids,” Mamy Jean Victor, Anjara’s father, shared. “I hope that Mercy Ships’ work will continue not only for Anjara but also for other kids who are still out there!”