It’s been over 40 years since our mission of hope and healing was launched with a simple dream, but since then, thousands of people have received life-changing surgical care. As we look back on some of our previous patients’ journeys, we are reminded of the impact that hope can have.
For Elodie, hope can be found in her son’s smile.
If not for his surgery, Elodie’s son, Emmanoel, would have died by suffocation before his 3rd birthday. A tumor in his mouth cut off his airway to the point that he was passing out three times a day. Emmanoel’s shallow and labored breathing sounded like a perpetual asthma attack and caused those around him to worry constantly.
Elodie and her husband, Maurice, had tried everything. At first, doctors told them that their infant son “just had malaria.” But, as Emmanoel grew, his breathing worsened. Eventually, they took him to the capital of the neighboring country the Democratic Republic of Congo in hopes of finding medical treatment. It was there that doctors identified the culprit – a tumor growing from Emmanoel’s palate inside his mouth was slowly suffocating him. He needed an operation, they said, but it was not a surgery that they could perform.
With each day that passed after their return home, Emmanoel’s breathing worsened, and soon he began to lose consciousness. His blackouts became so regular that Elodie no longer rushed him to the hospital. Maurice also stopped sleeping at night because he was afraid Emmanoel would suffocate before dawn.
Maurice and Elodie were out of options and resources, and their son was almost out of time. Now losing consciousness three times a day, they feared that eventually, he would pass out and not wake up again.
Between sleepless nights at home, Maurice worked in a shipping port. One day, he noticed a ship arrive that was unlike any he’d ever seen before — one with a hospital onboard. Maurice learned about the Africa Mercy — a hospital ship filled with volunteers ready to offer free surgery to those who needed it most. He quickly told Elodie about the good news thrilled that there was finally a chance for healing for their little boy.
For the next three weeks, Maurice and Elodie counted down each day until Mercy Ships doctors would begin seeing patients. That day came on Wednesday, August 28th, when Emmanoel and his parents waited in a line of more than 7,300 people to be seen by Mercy Ships. Before Emmanoel reached the front of the line, he had already passed out at least once and required the attention of the Mercy Ships Emergency Medical Team.
Emmanoel was quickly scheduled for surgery onboard the Africa Mercy, and, within a few days, he became one of the first patients Mercy Ships treated in the Republic of Congo.
“I don’t know how he survived this long; I really don’t,” volunteer Dr. Mark Shrime, Emmanoel’s surgeon, said during the operation.
In just three weeks after a successful operation, Emmanoel has become a different child, smiling on the dock in the arms of his doting parents. With every day that passes, Emmanoel continues to heal and grow and breathe.
Finally, young Emmanoel can speak, laugh and has hope once more!
Emmanoel is only one example of the life-changing miracles that occur thanks to the compassionate giving of our partners and the tireless work of our volunteers. And with the highly anticipated first field service of our new ship, the Global Mercy, coming soon, even more children and families will have the opportunity to find hope where there was once only pain.