Listen: Laura Bennett chats to John and Lee-Ann Borrow, who have spent years travelling and working on Mercy Ships. John captained the African Mercy and Lee-Ann was a Nurse; (they’ve only just retired). Image: Mercy Ships staff. All photos from Mercy Ships Australia Facebook.
To mark World Maritime Day, Christian medical charity Mercy Ships is celebrating 40 years of ministry.
Over the past four decades their dedicated medical volunteers have performed 95,000 surgeries in some of the neediest parts of the world for people who may have otherwise had no access to this vital medical help.
Dr Mark Shrime has volunteered for Mercy Ships for the past ten years onboard the world’s largest hospital ship the Africa Mercy. He describes the moment he realised the impact of using his medical training to serve in this way.
Watch: 40 Years of Medical Mission
“What really solidified what I was going to do was the first time here on the ship in 2008 in Liberia,” said Dr Shrime. “After going 15 years of not loving what I was doing I walked onto the ship and saw 15 patients with head and neck tumours on the ward right behind where I’m sitting right now and to me that was an epiphany moment of ‘oh this is why I’ve been training for 15 years.”
Dr Shrime shares just one of the many stories of transformation he’s witnessed after performing a life-changing surgery for one woman while docked in the West African port city of Conakry in Guinea.
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“She was a young woman who had a goiter, an enlarged thyroid – small to medium sized by the standard of goiters that we see here. The surgery was uneventful. It was honestly one of these cases that probably wouldn’t be memorable, except two days after the surgery we took her bandages off and gave her a mirror to look at her neck and that experience, that moment for me is always amazing to watch the smile on their face and sometimes the attempt to hide the smile on their face.
“She broke into tears because her husband had left her. Because of this tumour everyone was making fun of her. We don’t just do surgery. We don’t just take out these benign tumours. There is this sense that patients have been removed from the general population. They’ve lost their rights to be human. We as humans really [tend to] personify people in the eight inches of their face, ‘that is who you are’. And when there’s a tumour there, that implies that you become somehow a little bit less human in any culture, and there are often overlays on top of that.
“So to watch that change in her, and I’m probably putting words in her mouth, but potentially the idea that I can be normal again, that to me is an amazing privilege.”
Dr Shrime concluded by highlighting how Mercy Ships will continue in it’s mission to tackle both long and short-term global health care issues.
“The problem is going to be fixed through training, through research, through education and ultimately through a ministry level, national level focus on the surgical burden in the country. That actually has to happen.
“There’s often a tension in the global healthcare discussion between…development…and relief…. We should be doing both.”
“That’s part of what we’re doing here on Mercy Ships, part of what a lot of the surgical community is focused on. But in the interim there are still going to be patients, who can’t access safe, affordable and timely surgery.
“There’s often a tension in the global healthcare discussion between whether we really should be focusing on development, or we should be really focusing on relief. I think the answer is there shouldn’t be a tension, we should be doing both and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
In the interview above, Australian couple John and Lee-Ann Borrow share stories about their experience working for years on Mercy Ships.
Article and video supplied with thanks to Global News Alliance, a Great Commission project using news to prompt believers to action.