Saturday, February 28, 2015

Africa Mercy - Up to Speed at Last: One Nurse's Journey

Surgeries are finally up to speed for the Africa Mercy team in Madagascar, which is good news for Marilyn as she nears the end of her service there. She shares stories and photos, including one tumor surgery miracle. A sixteen pound tumor was removed. -----Sharon 

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

"Up to Speed at Last"
27 February 2015

Can you imagine what life would be like with a 16 pound tumor hanging off your jaw? A benign tumor is only benign if you are able to get medical attention in a timely manner. Years ago, it

Sambany before surgery
would have been a simple procedure to remove it. After decades of inexorable growth, this tumor presented quite a challenge.

Blood donors for Sambany

Surgery was risky, but Sambany said, “I know without surgery I will die. I know I might die in surgery, but I already feel dead inside from the way I'm treated. I choose to have surgery.” Twelve hours of surgery and 14 units of blood later, he was
Sambany after surgery
indeed a free man.
I've included before and after photos...and a picture of our local "blood bank." (Yes, we do invest our blood, sweat, and tears into our work around here...) Cataract surgeries are happening, too. Some days are crazy busy, with more bumps in the road than usual. Last Monday was such a day. It was exhausting, but it all became worthwhile the next day when the patches came off. We got some terrific results, and had some very happy patients. 

The rest of the week seemed more "normal"--most of the surgeries were quick andfree of complications. By Wednesday, I was saying, "Now I remember what it is supposed to feel like around here!" We were on a roll. The good news is, our surgery schedule has filled up. We have patients, finally. The bad news is, we only have two more weeks of surgeons coming to do surgery. Just as we begin to find our rhythm, it is time to wind it down and dismantle the program. The good news, though, is, it looks like we will be able to do surgery on all the patients that we have found in all the screenings we have done, and even to do the second eye for most of the patients who would benefit from that. We will reach the bottom of the barrel just about the same time as we run out of time. How often does that happen?  

This week's star patient is another relatively young man with diabetes. He came to the screening in Tana, but his blood sugar was way too high for surgery. We sent him away. Undeterred, he got his blood sugar under control, and he and his wife took a bus from Tana to come to one of our local screenings. He was profoundly blind and walked hesitantly, even with his wife on one side and me on the other. The day after surgery, he saw his wife again for the first time in a long time. In one of those funny, poignant moments, he smiled and started to shake her hand.

(Fortunately, it did end up in a hug.) He is returning next week for his second eye--I can't wait to see him in action, walking independently up the gangway and down the stairs.
I leave for home in less than four weeks. I am sure going to miss this place! What a blessing it has been for me to be here. --

Marilyn Neville

[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]


  1. Oh Sharon, I cannot imagine a 16 lb tumor anywhere, much less on the face. Bless his heart. Marilyn sounds so excited this time, so unlike the previous two times, when things seems destined to fall apart for them.

    And now I am wondering what will happen next? If Marilyn is going home, will anyone else continue to tell the story, or is this the end of the ship's voyage?

    This has been so powerful and compassionate...
    Thank you, Sharon for being a gracious facilitator or conduit for this adventure. (smile)

  2. I hate to see her go too, but I know she needs to come home eventually. She was so willing to do these emails from the start and I am very grateful she did. At the time, we had no idea who would be interested. In the end, her posts have had a positive impact. I've learned about places I've never seen before, the African people, the Africa Mercy and its work, and saw faith in action as the team constantly prayed and overcame so much. I'm sure there is more to be said and I hope others will let Marilyn know. Thanks Dixie!

  3. What a wonderful service to offer poorer countries. What a tumor! He must be absolutely over the moon to have it removed and to live some semblance of an ordinary life. I wish Marilyn every blessing as she moves on with her life too.


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