Four-year-old Amadou was the first patient to receive a surgery on board the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, the Global Mercy®. Born with one windswept leg and one bowed leg, even sitting for a meal was painful for him. Both are conditions which can be corrected by early intervention.
Amadou will receive two surgeries. At present, there are no fully certified pediatric orthopedic surgeons practicing in Senegal although there is a resident in training who has been mentored on board the Africa Mercy® during previous visits.
“I am looking forward to seeing the boy walking properly… to be like the others. I will be happy for that. I am looking forward to seeing that happen,” stated Mariatou, the young boy’s family member who joined him as caregiver.
Amadou is the first of over 40 planned pediatric orthopedic operations this month. Over the next four months, the Global Mercy will provide over 800 safe, free surgeries.
In this first surgery, Consultant Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Rachel Buckingham was assisted by Pediatric Surgeon, Andrew Wainwright, also from the Oxford University Trust. While both are from the United Kingdom, they were supported by a multinational team of professionals, who all volunteered their time and expertise for this life-changing surgery on this unique hospital ship.
“Senegal does not yet have their own pediatric orthopedic surgeon. What keeps me coming back is the need. It’s the ability to train local healthcare workers and make a difference. Mercy Ships really wants to do itself out of a job. You go into medicine to have an impact, so here we have a massive impact,” stated Dr. Rachel Buckingham.
This new ship, which started as a dream of Mercy Ships founder Don Stephens over a decade ago, has finally become a reality. Jubilant crew and patients watched as young Amadou and his caregiver walked up the gangway of the Global Mercy to receive treatment. The long-awaited day had finally come for the real work of this purpose-designed hospital ship to begin.
In this historic first surgical field service, the Global Mercy will focus on bringing hope and healing through the following surgical specialties: Maxillofacial, General, Pediatric Specialized General, Orthopedic, Reconstructive Plastics, and Ophthalmology.
This is also the first time that one ship will serve two countries through one port. At the invitation of the Senegalese government, up to 25% of the surgery patients are expected from nearby The Gambia.
The Global Mercy is not just a hospital but also a floating training center, which will facilitate hundreds of hours of training in the coming five months whilst docked in Dakar. Volunteer professionals on board, in collaboration with in-country partners, plan to train more than 600 healthcare professionals in courses such as Safe Surgery, Mental Health, Primary Trauma Care, SAFE Obstetrics, Neonatal Resuscitation, Vital Anesthesia Simulation Training, and Essential Pain Management. The training schedule will include a mobile course in The Gambia, as well as both on-and-off-ship mentoring in Dakar.
While it is the first surgical field service for the Global Mercy, this will be the third time that a Mercy Ship has served in Senegal since 2019. During the last field service in the Port of Dakar from February to late November 2022, sister hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, provided 765 surgeries to 695 patients. These included surgical specialties such as: General, Maxillofacial, Orthopedic, Pediatric Specialized General, Reconstructive Plastics, and Women’s Health.
During the previous 2022 field service, Mercy Ships also provided training and mentoring for more than 2,500 participants. Courses included biomedical anesthesia training, essential surgical skills, neonatal resuscitation, sterile processing, and many more in collaboration with Senegalese partners.
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