Man with 16-pound facial tumor saved by Mercy Ships “walking blood bank” is a great story for World Blood Donor Day.

June 14, 2015 – Toamasina, Madagascar – The theme of the World Health Organization’s World Blood Donor Day for 2015 is “Thank you for saving my life.”  Mercy Ships volunteers saved the life of Sambany, a man with a 16-pound facial tumor, by donating blood for him during a free operation onboard the hospital ship. The blood of seventeen people from six nations now runs through his veins.  Sambany and many other surgery patients have received blood donations from the volunteer crew, the “walking blood bank” on the Mercy Ship.

Sambany’s story began around 36 years ago, when a tumor began to consume his life. It became a monstrous facial tumor – the size of two extra heads. After nearly three decades as a maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Gary Parker, Mercy Ships Chief Medical Officer, says,

“It’s one of the biggest tumors of this type that I’ve seen.”

The tumor caused unrelenting physical and emotional discomfort. Sambany couldn’t sleep. When he walked, he had to hold the tumor. People rejected him, mocked him and shunned him.  Hopelessness defined his life. His search for help required traveling hundreds of kilometers and included ten hospitals (only three of which had surgeons) and a witch doctor … with no success. He grew weaker and weaker. His world shrank to the size of his house – his only place of safety and peace.

Then he heard a radio announcement that a hospital ship that could treat tumors for free was coming to Madagascar. It was a journey that only a desperate man would attempt. Five people took turns carrying him on their backs for two days … but he made it.

The free surgery to remove the tumor took over half a day onboard the Mercy Ship, and over twice of his body’s volume of blood was lost and replaced. The crew, the living blood bank, literally poured life into Sambany.



Dr. Parker says, “I think that every human being has the right to look human. To be treated as human … to be able to re-enter the human race and to look like everyone else …. that’s a fantastic thing.”

The World Blood Donor Day campaign aims to highlight stories of people whose lives have been saved through blood donation. When Sambany looked at himself in a hand-held mirror, seeing himself for the first time without his tumor, he said,

“I am free from my disease. I’ve got a new face. I am saved!”




ABOUT MERCY SHIPS:  Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. Learn more about who we are.


For More Information:

Contact: Laura Rebouche ́
U.S. National Media Relations Director Mercy Ships
Office:+1 903.939.7000
Direct:+1 903.939.7127

For Int’l: Diane Rickard
International Media Relations Manager Mercy Ships

Hi-res photos and general Mercy Ships B-Roll video footage are available upon request.