Before we have our first surgery aboard the Africa Mercy, we need to select patients. In a country with 1 doctor per 10000 people and access to surgery being limited to only the most wealthy, the need is great indeed.
On Monday of this week, over 6000 people lined up to be seen by our pre-screening teams in our first of five screening events in Guinea. It was a challenging day for all of us, including those who supported from the ship. Crowds began to multiply long before sunrise in hope of being treated for tumors, deformed legs, cleft-lips, blindness, burns and many other conditions.
By the end of the day, 1,135 people were offered follow-up appointments to return for a more in-depth health assessment over the next week. We are on our way to filling our operating rooms with patients who have no other access to timely, safe and affordable surgeries.
At the follow-up appointment, crew assess each potential patient to determine if 1) they were fit for surgery, and 2) if their condition was something we can treat. If the answer to both of those questions is “yes,” then they are given an appointment for their final screening with a surgeon.
I was able to assist with one of these days of follow-up appointments. (See picture of set-up.) As the patients lined-up once again, you could see the mixed looks of anticipation, anxiety and hope. Would their conditions be treatable? Would the screeners say “yes”?
My job was to guide people through check-in to the biometrics stations, where they determined if patients had adequate nutritional health and blood pressure for surgery. I also guided people toward the exit after they had either received their “yes” or been told that a surgery was not possible and guided to our chaplaincy team.
As each of them made their way to the exit, I had a realization. It was so very hard to see the disappoint of those who had been told “no.” However, without Mercy Ships and the surgeries we provide, all of those who come to us would have been a “no.” None of them would have otherwise had access to surgical intervention.
We are thankful for each person to which we were able to say “yes.” We rejoice with them as their hope is awakened.
Please pray for all of those our crew has encountered this week. Pray that regardless of what they heard from us, they would encounter God’s ultimate hope and healing.