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Friday, April 20, 2012

Dr Leo

On 10 February 2012, Mercy Ships welcomed Dr. Leo Cheng onboard the Africa Mercy for his ninth visit.  We always enjoy a vist from Leo, he seems to cheer up a room the moment he walks in, plus he is always blessing us with some delicious cheese or chocolate from home.   His self-described “boyish madness” is a wonderful spirit-raiser for patients and crew alike.
 Originally, it took quite a determined effort to convince Dr. Leo – an oral, maxillofacial, head and neck surgeon in the United Kingdom – to sign on as a Mercy Ships volunteer. Around 2001 his priorities were 2.2 kids, the investment account and his mortgage. In his mind, working for Mercy Ships was for Mother Teresa. But this didn’t deter Lord Ian McColl, who had his sights set on recruiting Dr. Leo to accompany him to the Mercy Ships field service in Benin, West Africa.
Dr. Leo recalls the “tipping point” fondly: “I received a call from Lord McColl’s office one day, asking me to please hurry and get my yellow fever vaccination. Lord and Lady McColl needed me to go to Benin with them. I was totally dazed at first. But then I put away my secular world excuses and recanted. I made the needed arrangements and began my Mercy Ships service.”

That experience changed Dr. Leo’s life. He saw how volunteers came to Mercy Ships because of their love for people and for each other. And then there was Dr. Gary Parker. He had never met anyone more Christlike. His model of hope and healing was something he had not experienced in his First World setting. His compassion showed him that he also had something he could offer the poorest of the poor.”

Dr. Leo Cheng discusses the successful outcome of a thyroid surgery.

Dr. Leo acknowledges how important the support of his family has been to contributing two of his five weeks of annual vacation to be on the surgical roster for Mercy Ships. His wife Hilary and his daughter Kat have both accompanied him to the Africa Mercy to contribute their volunteer skills as well. (His younger daughter Zoe is also planning to serve on the ship.) When Dr. Leo’s annual onboard service is over, he returns to London and immediately starts work on his second Mercy Ships mission. Dr. Leo patiently and persistently convinces the manufacturers of the latest surgical equipment to contribute returned demonstrator units and one-generation-prior models to Mercy Ships.

He feels that it is a real privilege that when he is not serving on the ship physically he can fulfill another mission he feels that God has for him. He persuades the companies to contribute machines that he knows would be very helpful to him, Dr. Gary, and the other surgeons coming from all over the world. When this equipment is on the ship, any surgeon from Australia, New Zealand, America or Canada will feel like they are going from home to home while on Mercy Ships.
For the Togo 2012 Field Service, Dr. Leo secured four pieces of important surgical equipment from Ethicon Endo-Surgery, including a fully outfitted Harmonic Scalpel. The Harmonic Scalpel is a wonderful blessing for all thyroid surgeons who routinely must contend with removing the extremely large goiters that are commonplace in West Africa. This instrument is like a pair of blunt scissors with ultrasound waves at the tip. When we have to cut vessels behind a very large goiter, we need to avoid bleeding so we can see the surgical area. The Harmonic Scalpel makes the cut, while at the same time it seals the ends of the blood vessels. This greatly reduces the risk of complications – like inadvertently damaging a nerve which would cause hoarseness. The Harmonic Scalpel also does its job very quickly. This reduces surgery time and the risk of complications. Dr. Leo was also pleased that the Ethicon Endo-Surgery donation included other helpful items for the OR toolkit. Now there are some very good additions to call upon.
Dr. Leo Cheng performs thyroid surgery using the Harmonic Scalpel.

The Nerve Stimulator can differentiate a blood vessel from a nerve, which is especially important when cutting into obscured surgical areas.

Dr. Leo Cheng uses the Neurosign 100 Laryngeal Nerve Stimulator, an equipment donation he arranged from Magstim

Tissue Patches, a specialized synthetic cellotape, will be used for patching over a multitude of tiny blood leaks in the surgical area to prevent a major leak from developing.
Multiple small leaks in the tissues surrounding the thyroid surgical area will be effectively stopped by the Tissue Patch 3 rapid barrier

And everyone will find the Braidlock helpful. This is a new clamping device to hold drainage tubes securely and safely in place, eliminating the need for tubes to be surgically stitched into place.
Post-surgery drainage tubing is safely and securely in place with the Braidlock line fixation device.

Dr. Leo co-authors scholarly research articles on the topic of thyroid surgery. He takes the time, while onboard, to make this knowledge accessible to everyone. His evening lectures inform and educate the crew. His gift for lightheartedness makes a complex topic understandable and enjoyable. He also weaves a compelling and encouraging message about faith into his presentation. The gentle humility in Dr. Leo’s heart is evident as he reflects on his contribution to Mercy Ships over the years: “There is so much saintly work going on here. While I am here for these two weeks, l want to bottle up all of the holiness into jars and release it in my OR back home. This ship is filled with gems – all precious cargo.”

And, one of brightest and kindest gems onboard the Africa Mercy every year is Dr. Leo.  It was only a few years ago that Sharon's parents were on their way to New Zealand.  Whilst waiting in an airport they noticed a man wearing Mercy Ships shirt!  Out of curiousity they went and talked to the man, it was Dr. Leo.  So even when he's not here, he's wearing it!
Leo, we look forward to seeing you again in Guinea.

1 comment:

Bob Hookins said...

Really enjoyed meeting Leo and so glad to have got to talk to him.
(Sharon's Dad)