Listen: Georgia Free talks to Hope Breakfast about her new podcast 'Finding Hope' and the incredible stories to come in season one
I’m sure most of us have been subjected to some form of surgical procedure at least once in our lives. Wisdom teeth removal, a broken bone, getting an appendix out. Although these surgeries can be a little daunting, they are generally straightforward, safe and accessible.
But venture outside Australia, and that reality becomes much less commonplace. Five billion people around the world live with illnesses, injuries and deformities that are completely reversible with a simple surgery. However, without access to adequate healthcare, they remain untreated.
Global charity Mercy Ships, who operate hospital ships across the world, are – quite literally – turning the tide of health inequality, by providing thousands of free surgeries every year to the world’s forgotten poor.
On the first episode of Finding Hope, theatre nurse Merryl Mackenzie shared her incredible story of being a clinical supervisor with Mercy Ships.
Merryl has had a remarkable 40-year nursing career, working mostly as a theatre nurse, across several states in Australia. However, 14 years ago, her world changed when she volunteered for Mercy Ships for the first time.
“I was looking for something that I could work short term or donate my time to, giving back to the community,” Merryl said.
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“In 2007, I volunteered for the first time for three weeks in Ghana.”
After that, she was hooked.
“I was a repeat offender as I like to say,” Merry laughed.
After spending many annual leave breaks and holidays volunteering overseas, Merryl took up her first full-time position with Mercy Ships in 2017 as a clinical supervisor. The hospital ship became her home, and the crew, her family.
“Living in community changes you. Living on the ship is essentially living in a small community. We can live very isolated and isolating lives at home here,” she said.
Merryl has been involved with thousands of surgeries, but one particular moment never fails to make her emotional – the “reveals” after facial surgeries are finished.
“The thing that strikes me is the hope that comes into their eyes. The look of sheer, almost disbelief, joy – all of those emotions wrapped up into seeing [themselves] for the first time.
“Often what I see is that patients will put the mirror down and then later on in the day, when they think no one’s looking, they’ll get the mirror back and they’ll just sit there and there’s a smile right up to their eyes.”
Mercy Ships is able to change – and, in many cases, save – thousands of lives each year, but there are always people who miss out, which Merryl said she often finds difficult to come to terms with.
“The need is so great, there are always people that we can’t help,” she said.
“Personally, the way I come back to deal with it, is for the people that we can help, that’s life changing for them.
“The need is so great, there are always people that we can’t help… I’ve been able to help this person, and I’ll give them the best that I can bring.” – Mercy Ships nurse Merryl Mackenzie
“I’ve been able to help this person, and I’ll give them the best that I can bring.”
As a devoted Christian, Merryl credited her charity and generosity to the example of Jesus.
“We have a poster up on the theatre wall saying ‘we want to be a place where we see and allow God to change lives’,” she said.
“That’s the undergirding of who I am.”
Listen to Merryl Mackenzie’s full story on Episode 1 of Finding Hope with Georgia Free, in the podcast player above. The Surgery Ship, a documentary series about Mercy Ships, is currently available on 7Plus.