Shared Benefit From Maxillofacial Care
In August 2023, the Global Mercy sailed into Freetown harbour, where they will stay for 10 months to provide care and hope.
The UK has 10,000 anaesthetists, to serve a population of 67 million. Within Sierra Leone’s public health system, just 2 anaesthetists serve 9 million people.
Other surgical staff are not much better represented and the people of Sierra Leone have little access to general, orthopaedic, paediatric, or other forms of surgery.
They all help equally to rebuild lives, yet maxillofacial surgery is often mentioned by patients and features in accompanying literature.
A Dual Nature
in terms of profession and purpose, maxillofacial surgery has duality built in. One aspect is that consultants are qualified as doctors and dentists, the second a little less obvious.
Those carrying out maxillofacial surgery have to consider function and appearance. The ability to breathe, eat, taste and swallow are critical parts of life, how we look to others can be as important.
We are not suggesting that a paediatrician curing bowed legs, or orthopaedic surgeons providing a new shoulder are less valuable. Simply that people view maxillofacial care as vital, because of the evident effects.
Jaws can be rebuilt, large facial tumours be removed, cleft lip and palate be corrected, or a range of highly visible reconstructive surgery take place.
Building The Future
Sierra Leone’s health service has improved in recent years, still a way to go but primary medical care is more available. The essential need is for safe surgical care, along with education to ensure this continues.
Those on board the Global Mercy will focus on the transfer of skills. Working alongside local healthcare professionals to pass on knowledge and best practice, a collaborative approach to continuing growth.
The specialists hope to carry out 2000 life transforming operations during their visit, yet they know that those which follow through local hands are more worthwhile.
A patient who had first stage surgery many years ago, when the first Mercy ship visited, then had to wait until another ship docked 9 years later for the next stage. Others wait as long for any treatment.
By helping to build sustainable surgical care within Sierra Leone, those visiting will ultimately assist more patients and sow a seed of internal care which can multiply.
Leading By Example
Dr Sandra Lako, one of the physicians on board, partly grew up on a Mercy ship and has since devoted her life to their mission.
Others involved have personal stories of the value they have seen in sharing skills and all are dedicated to the purpose they serve.
That they cure patients of serious conditions is valuable but so is the spirit they bring. An ethos of care and peace, a wish to freely share knowledge and to see that all people are treated equally.
The current option Sierra Leone residents have can be paying the cost of travel and surgery overseas, which few are able to afford. They have to live with their condition and the consequences.
We don’t mind the people of Sierra Leone taking a kind view on maxillofacial surgeons and know they equally appreciate every form of medical care. Support they deserve, as all human beings do.