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Ruth Walne

Ruth Walne

Orthopaedic technician and Mercy Ships volunteer, Mercy Ships
After 47 years of working in the NHS, first as a nurse and then as a Plaster Practitioner, Ruth decided that it was the right time to use some of her skills to work with Mercy Ships in serving those patients who have no hope for the future - either because they live in countries which have no doctors to provide the surgeries, or because they are unable to pay for the treatment. The Africa Mercy and, now, the Global Mercy are the largest non-governmental hospital ships, mooring on the West Coast of Africa, allowing ten months of work to be carried out in a country, to change the lives of each individual treated and leave a legacy of an improved infrastructure and healthcare. The ships have a crew of between 350 - 450 volunteers, with half of those being medical. The opportunities are the same as for any working hospital: doctors, anaesthetists, nurses, physios, occupational therapists and technicians, as well as all the support services. Many of the children who receive orthopaedic treatment are suffering from knocked knees or bowlegs. The surgeons have to establish whether the cause is Ricketts or Blount’s disease, and then decide what surgery is best. In the villages, mothers cook over open fires and children suffer burns, resulting in massive contractures which require skilful reconstructive and plastic surgery, followed by months of rehabilitation by the specialists. Eye surgeons restore sight to adults and children, general surgeons treat patients who have conditions that are so far advanced that we would not normally have seen them in the UK because they would have been treated earlier. The Facial Reconstruction surgeons not only save the lives of those patients with huge tumours but also restore them to be able to take a full part in society, without the need to hide in the shadows or behind facial cloths. During all the surgeries on board the hospital ships, the surgeons are working with doctors from the sponsoring country, teaching them the skills to enable them to perform these surgeries themselves, thereby leaving a legacy of improved healthcare.