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Boston Surgeon Gives Life to Congo Boy Aboard Mercy Ships

By on September 23, 2013 in Health News Texas with 0 Comments
AfricaMercy1

The Africa Mercy at port. Photo: Documentary Filmmakers’ Association

by Mercy Ship staff

A volunteer surgeon from Boston removed a ‘fist sized’ tumor from the throat of a four-year-old boy who was slowly suffocating. The complex surgery was performed onboard the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.

Dr. Mark Shrime, a clinical instructor in otology and laryngology at the Harvard Medical School and an otolaryngologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, performed the surgery with a team of professional medical volunteers from five countries.

Shime met Emmanoel in Pointe Noir, Congo, where the surgeon was volunteering with Mercy Ships.  Emmanoel’s family had gotten to the front of the line of over 7300 people who had come seeking medical help. Their son could hardly breathe.

Emmanoel is examined after surgery by nurse Amy Humphrey from the U.S. and and Dr. Mark SHRIME. Photo: Josh Callow

Emmanoel is examined after surgery by nurse Amy Humphrey from the U.S. and and Dr. Mark Shrime. Photo: Josh Callow

Emmanoel was first diagnosed with malaria over two years ago. After antimalarial did nothing, his parents took him to a hospital in Kinshasa, Congo, where doctors discovered a tumor in Emmanoel’s neck. The tumor was slowly suffocating him, but they were unable to provide treatment.

The boy’s breathing slowly worsened until he began to lose consciousness up to three times a day.  His mother, who initially brought him to the local hospital during each incident, eventually stopped.

Working in the port of Pointe Noir, Emmanoel’s father saw the Africa Mercy sail in. Hearing the ship contained a hospital; he was filled with hope for his struggling son.

On patient Selection Day two weeks later, Dr. Shrime met Emmanoel and discovered the child’s condition. He was immediately scheduled for one of the first surgeries onboard the ship’s Congo stay.

“On September 4th, the four-year-old was operated on to remove, a mass the size of my fist,” said Dr. Shrime. “ A small, multinational army welcomed this child and his compromised airway: two anesthesiologists, one intensive care physician, one anesthetic assistant, two nurse anesthetists, three surgeons, and three OR nurses.”

The operating team consisted of members from the U.S., United Kingdom, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the Congo.

“We were flanked by an entire ‘difficult airway’ setup, with video laryngoscopy, flexible fiber optic laryngoscopes, and an open tracheotomy tray,”
the Boston surgeon explained.

“During the Africa Mercy’s 10-month stay in the port of Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo, Mercy Ships plans to provide over 3,300 surgeries for adult and child patients onboard, to treat more than 20,000 at land-based dental and eye clinics renovated for the purpose, and to provide holistic health care education to over 240 Congolese health care professionals and 830 community leaders,” said Mercy Ships president and founder Don Stephens, who was on-site for the patient Selection Day.

“During the Africa Mercy’s 10-month stay in the port of Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo, Mercy Ships plans to provide over 3,300 surgeries for adult and child patients onboard, to treat more than 20,000 at land-based dental and eye clinics renovated for the purpose, and to provide holistic health care education to over 240 Congolese health care professionals and 830 community leaders,” said Texas based  Mercy Ships president and founder Don Stephens, who was on-site for the patient Selection Day.

Emmanoel’s care aboard ship was not a matter of a few hours of struggling against an obstructing tumor and rebuilding his destroyed palate, but instead complete management of the patient from the time he was carried onto the Africa Mercy to his quiet return to his mother – a child finally able to breath and sleep peacefully.


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