The need is such that people will travel great distances for help.
Patients from Guinea
Jonathan Erickson is a remarkable man who goes to great lengths to provide hope and healing to those in need. He and his wife are missionaries working in N’Zao, a remote village of about 2,000 people a few miles from N’Zerekore at the southeastern tip of Guinea. While caring for the people there, Jonathan meets numerous individuals with severe, even life-threatening, medical problems. Over the years, he has brought many of those patients to Mercy Ships for surgeries.
Shortly before the 2011 Sierra Leone Field Service began, Dr. Tony Giles, maxillofacial surgeon, and his wife Ann, an OR nurse, held screenings in that area. They have been working with Mercy Ships for many years. They examined patients and offered surgeries to those on whom they could safely operate. People with massive tumors and severe facial problems were referred to the volunteer surgeons on the Africa Mercy, the hospital ship that would soon be docked in Freetown.
About a month later, Jonathan drove 13 of those referred patients on a two-day journey, covering 1,150 kilometers to the Africa Mercyin Sierra Leone. The 13 were admitted to the hospital ship for surgeries that would save some of their lives – and would change all of them.
Roger and M’mai had facial tumors so large that suffocation threatened their lives. Mark had a tumor on his jaw, Abu had a facial tumor, Andre had a broken jaw, and Magassaba had a bone transplant bonded to his jaw. Youhou had a buildup of mucus behind her right eye that dislocated the eye. Lamire needed a metal jaw removed and replaced. Kadija needed repair of a frozen jaw, and Ce required another surgery in a series of facial repairs. A young woman named Seniou needed two surgeries for facial reconstruction to repair the damage caused by the destructive bacteria called noma.
Jonathan stayed in the ward and later in the HOPE Center, with all eleven patients. He translated for them and fulfilled a vital role as communicator, spiritual advisor, encourager, and entertainer. All of the patients spoke French, which is not a language most of the translators in Freetown know.
“I have watched Mercy Ships over the years, and I love the idea that they’re looking up-country for patients. The poorest of the poor are up-country,” said Jonathan. “I’m very grateful they are going to look for them, because they are helping more people.”
Seniou, Cy and several others will return with Jonathan in September for more facial reconstructive surgery.
Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Liz Cantu