At 21, when Minette came to the Africa Mercy, it was clear to see the 4.3kg Neurofibroma (a type of tumour) cascading from her neck to her waist. What was not completely apparent was how the growth created not only a heavy physical burden, but also weighed her down emotionally because of the shame a rejection she felt from others every day.
A three-hour surgery was needed to remove the tumour, but during her physical recover the volunteer crew began to administer a heavy dose of psychological first aid to help restore her emotional well-being. The medical staff cared for Minette physical needs but also poured our love and kindness in a way she had never before experienced. Even deeper than Minette’s desire for her tumour to be removed was her wish to just be loved and accepted by others.
Years of rejection made it difficult for Minette to accept that care, so every day little by little the nurses, chaplains, and other crew members gently cared for Minette in a way that allowed her to slowly open up and receive that affection. Finally, the moment came when Minette flashed a big smile that soon became a common occurrence.
“It was just really beautiful to see someone go from very little confidence to knowing that she could be confident and knowing that she was loved,” says Stacia Julian, a ward nurse and team leader for the plastics program. “There is so much light in her eyes now and you can see happiness shining out of Minette.”
Mercy Ships approach to holistic healthcare works to allow patients to leave restored, not just physically but also emotionally!