Here’s another recent story from the Africa Mercy, docked in Lome, Togo.
As written, photographed, and provided by Mercy Ships:
Eight women sat close together on the bench beneath the awning at the Mercy Ships Hospitality Center in Lomè, Togo. They had come from villages – some nearby and some far away – all hoping that surgery would cure the terrible problem that was devastating their lives. VVF, vesico-vaginal fistula, is a common childbirth injury in poor countries without adequate health care. It is caused when the bladder is torn during prolonged or difficult labor. The result is that urine, and sometimes also feces, can no longer be controlled. The constant leakage, accompanied by the foul odor, shames its victims and separates them from society.
Alizma’s body language told the whole story. With her eyes cast down and her arms held close to her body, she could not easily be coaxed to smile. She sat beside her good friend and neighbor, Akissi. Both women had travelled together from their village … seeking a cure for the problem they shared.
Alizma is a lovely young woman in her mid-twenties. She had been dealing with VVF since the birth of her second child over a year ago. Unlike most VVF patients, however, she gave birth in a hospital, and her child is alive.
Her life became even more complicated when her husband died. She and her children live with her parents in a small village. Alizma previously made her living by farming, raising corn and peanuts to sell at the market. But customers would no longer buy from her because of the foul smell that she could not disguise. The shame and insulting remarks from others kept her indoors, away from people.
An announcement on the radio brought a ray of hope. A hospital ship was coming to Togo offering free surgeries for VVF. Alizma and Akissi went to the hospital for screening and signed their names on the precious recall list. In a few days, they were called with a date for surgery, and Mercy Ships transported them, along with others from their area, to the Africa Mercy .
The two friends were inseparable, encouraging each other throughout the process. They were even given beds next to each other in the ward and passed the time by playing games.
A few days after their successful surgeries, both women took part in the dress ceremony. Arrayed in their new dresses and head wear, they danced and sang to the happy beat of the drums. Nurses, doctors, crew members and invited guests joined in the ceremony.
Alizma confidently declared her future plans – to resume her life as a farmer of corn and peanuts. She added, “I want to thank Mercy Ships for their care of me.”