Here's a recent story written by one of our Mercy Ships writers on a gorgeous little girl called Josephine.
Two-year-old Josephine inhaled something that affected her breathing. Her parents took her to a local clinic which sent them to an emergency hospital . . . which sent them to a government hospital . . . which sent them to a satellite clinic . . . which sent them back to the government hospital. After five days in the government hospital, specialist Dr. Karim Kabineh told them that Josephine was so tiny that she would die if he performed the necessary operation. He needed a pediatric anesthetist, anesthesia equipment, and a critical care unit with 24-hour nursing care – all unavailable at that hospital.
After eight days of hopeless searching for help, the desperate parents took Josephine to the office of the Minister of Health, where the father, David, hoped to plead his case and find someone who could help. At that moment – in the miracle of God’s timing – Ann Gloag, a member of the Mercy Ships International Board who is well-known for her charity work in Africa, was meeting the Minister.
She put in a call to Dr. Gary Parker, Chief Medical Officer onboard the Africa Mercy docked a short distance away in Freetown Harbor. After explaining to him what appeared to be the problem, arrangements were made to use an ambulance to transport Josephine, her parents and Dr. Kabineh to the ship.
Dr. Gary examined Josephine, took x-rays and discovered a small stone lodged in the little girl’s bronchus. A virtual think tank was begun to find a way to remove the stone from her tiny body. Dr.Gary approached engineering to see if a medical device could be fashioned that would be the right shape to fit into the bronchoscope and retrieve the stone. Every plausible idea was examined and eventually rejected.
Dr. Gary and Dr.Kabineh worked for five hours trying to remove the stone without success. Dr. Gary called Ann back to explain that what Josephine needed was a cardiac thoracic surgeon, and there wasn’t one on the ship. David was devastated. Mercy Ships was his last hope. But crew member Clementine Tengue encouraged him, saying, “God will find a way.”
Josephine was admitted to the intensive care unit with 24-hour care. About 3:00 am, ICU Nurse Melissa Warner was working the night shift when Josephine lost her breathing tube. Her vital signs were crashing. Dr. Michelle White, the pediatric anaesthetist/ anesthesiologist, was paged, but it would take her several minutes to respond. Melissa said, “In my mind I said I need help.” “And when I looked up, there was Corina Buth standing in the doorway. Corina, a pediatric ICU nurse, had been restless and couldn’t sleep. Corina did CPR, and Josephine’s vital signs returned to normal. Then Dr. Michelle arrived and replaced the breathing tube.
Josephine’s condition was deteriorating rapidly. Analysis was made of the hospitals nearby. Ann Gloag phoned a professor friend in Nairobi and explained that she needed a pediatric cardiac thoracic surgeon who could fly to Sierra Leone right away. The professor knew just the right man – Dr. James Munene, head of cardiac surgery at Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital.
“I was a bit reluctant,” said Dr. Munene. “I had never heard of Mercy Ships. I had no information on this case, and it was the middle of the night” Ann called back with information on his flight. “Be at the airport at 6:00 am,” she said.
“It was a little difficult to say no to the lady. I told my wife I guess I’m going to Sierra Leone in the morning,” Dr. Munene said.
Dr. Munene was overwhelmed by the Africa Mercy, the more than 400 crew members volunteering from 35 different countries, and the concept of bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor. He couldn’t believe such a mission could have been in operation for so many years, and he didn’t know anything about it.
Teaming with Dr. Gary, Dr. James operated on Josephine, fishing the stone out of her
bronchus with ease. Because Josephine was so tiny, it was a vital requirement to have a pediatric anesthetist as part of the team. Josephine woke shortly after the surgery and sat up all the way to the Intensive Care Unit, looking around and asking for a glass of water. To everyone’s surprise, she was anxious to eat right away. After a few days of recuperating in the ICU – and enjoying the attention of the nurses and other crew members – the little girl and her grateful parents left the ship
Dr. James was captivated by the mission and hopes to return to volunteer his services. “Really, it’s a privilege to come and see what people are doing while others are sleeping and doing nothing,” he said.
And God never sleeps – miracles still happen every day. Sometimes we are blessed to be a part of them.