First-Ever Surgery On Board The Global Mercy Hospital Ship

Dakar – Four-year-old Amadou was the first patient to undergo surgery on board the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, the Global Mercy

Born with one windswept leg and one bowed leg, even sitting for a meal was painful for him.

Both are conditions that can be corrected by early intervention. 

So, Amadou will receive two surgeries. 

Dr. Rachel Buckingham, Orthopedic Surgeon, and a day crew having a conversation with Amadou, the first patient to receive surgery on board the Global Mercy, and his caregiver, Mariatou, in the ward after being admitted to the hospital

At present, there are no fully certified pediatric orthopaedic surgeons practicing in the country although there is a resident in training who has been mentored on board the Africa Mercy during previous Senegal visits.

Mariatou, the young boy’s family member and caregiver, said: “I am looking forward to seeing the boy walking normally, properly, to be normal, to be like the others. I will be happy for that. I am looking forward to seeing that happen.”

Amadou’s surgery is the first of over 40 planned pediatric orthopedic operations this month. 

Over the next four months,  Global Mercy will provide more than 800 safe, free surgeries. 

In this first surgery on Monday, Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon Rachel Buckingham was assisted by Andrew Wainwright, also from the Oxford University Trust. 

While both are from the United Kingdom, they were supported by a multinational team of professionals, who all volunteered their time and expertise for this life-changing surgery on this unique hospital ship.

“Senegal does not yet have their paediatric orthopaedic surgeon. What keeps me coming back is the need,” said Dr. Buckingham. 

“It’s the ability to train local health care workers and make a difference. 

“Mercy Ships wants to do itself out of a job. You go into medicine to have an impact so here we have a massive impact.”

This new ship, which started as a dream of Mercy Ships founder Don Stephens over a decade ago, has finally become a reality. 

Jubilant crew and patients watched as young Amadou and his caregiver walked up the gangway of the Global Mercy to receive treatment. 

The long-awaited day had finally come for the real work of this purpose-designed hospital ship to begin.

In this historic first surgical field service,  Global Mercy will focus on bringing hope and healing through the following surgical specialties: Maxillofacial, General, Pediatric Specialised General, Orthopedic, Reconstructive Plastics, and Ophthalmology.

This is also the first time that one ship will serve two countries through one port. 

At the invitation of the Senegalese government, up to 25% of the surgery patients are expected from nearby The Gambia.

The Global Mercy is not just a hospital but also a floating training centre, that will facilitate hundreds of hours of training in the coming five months whilst docked in Dakar. 

Volunteer professionals on board, in collaboration with in-country partners, plan to train more than 600 healthcare professionals in courses such as Safe Surgery, Mental Health, Primary Trauma Care, SAFE Obstetrics, Neonatal Resuscitation, Vital Anesthesia Simulation Training, and Essential Pain Management. 

The training schedule will include a mobile course in The Gambia, as well as both on-and-off-ship mentoring in Dakar.

While it is the first surgical field service for  Global Mercy, this will be the third time that a Mercy Ship has served in Senegal since 2019. 

During the last field service in the Port of Dakar from February to late November 2022, the sister hospital ship, the Africa Mercy®, provided 765 surgeries to 695 patients. 

These included surgical specialties such as General, Maxillofacial, Orthopedic, Pediatric Specialised General, Reconstructive Plastics, and Women’s Health.

During the previous 2022 field service, Mercy Ships also provided training and mentoring for more than 2 500 participants. 

Courses included biomedical anesthesia training, essential surgical skills, neonatal resuscitation, sterile processing, and many more in collaboration with Senegalese partners.