Seven-year old Aissa suffers from a debilitating condition called Noma, a bacteria which has eaten away nearly one side of her face. Her parents abandoned her, and she was severely malnourished. Without intervention, she would die. Surgery was unavailable in her country, Cameroon in West Africa.
Mercy Ships volunteer and British doctor-in-training, Abi Boys, set up funding for the little girl to travel to the Mercy Ship in Togo, West Africa, for a free surgery.
Ali Chandra, a 26-year-old R.N. from New Jersey, is a ward supervisor and one of about 15 nurses who have touched Aissa’s life during her surgery and recovery onboard the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. “There is something so incredible about watching a child transform , to go from fear to confidence, from anger to pure joy,” says Ali, who has had a front row seat to witness Aissa’s transformation during the first week of her recovery on the ward.
Missy Brown, a member of the Association of PeriOperative Operating Room Nurses (AORN ) and an operating room team leader, is serving her second Field Service with Mercy Ships. As an OR nurse in Indiana, her experience, humble spirit, and work ethic are a perfect fit for the Africa Mercy.
With 100 nursing positions at any given time onboard the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, Mercy Ships requires approximately 750-800 nurses of all kinds to volunteer for a new 10 month field service in West African country each year.
Some give two weeks to several months of service; others give years and call the ship their home. At present, there are 95 nurses onboard the Mercy Ship, representing 12 countries: Great Britain, USA, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Norway, South Africa, and Austria.
Deyon Stephens, who directs Mercy Ships Education, says, “Though my formal nursing education was long ago, nursing has proven to be a wonderful background for much of my life. In the late 70's, I moved with my husband and young children onboard the first Mercy Ship, where we lived for 10 years developing and operating a floating hospital for the poor. What an outlet for the compassion, organization, and knowledge of nursing! Nursing – it’s training for life!”