Benign tumors, chronic ulcers, severe wound scars and burn contractures—a tightening of the skin that restricts movement—are prevalent in countries where machetes and open cooking fires are part of daily life.

young child with a volunteers nurse after plastic reconstructive surgeryAccording to WHO, an estimated 195,000 deaths each year are caused by burns—the vast majority occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Many Africans cook with open fires, boiling water and oil in open air. People, very often children, can be severely burned in accidents involving these fires, resulting in scarring that reduces the mobility of limbs. Many cases of severe burns require skin transplants to release burn contractures and restore range of motion.

The Mercy Ships plastic surgery team provides relief from pain and disfigurements through specialized surgical interventions.

In order to prepare for surgery, many patients are admitted to the hospital days before their procedures. The surgery is performed under general or local anesthesia in an operating room onboard the Africa Mercy. For severe burns, skin transplants release burn contractures and restore range of motion. Following a brief stay in the post-anesthesia care unit, recovering patients transfer to the inpatient ward where, during the post-operative period, nurses monitor them closely to ensure stable vital signs, and manage their recovery and follow-up, including transition to outpatient care.