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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Here on the Africa Mercy, we are quite proficient in the language of smiles. When local languages like Kituba and Lingala aren’t your strongpoints—the smile remains your most genuine form of communication. Benjamine, a 12-year old from Congo’s interior, speaks this language with beautiful fluency. When crew first met her at the secondary plastics screening, they were taken away with her ability to push through such severe burn contractures to send us the most heartfelt smile we could imagine.  
Benjamine was able to receive a free, life-changing surgery onboard the Africa Mercy. Her operation included multiple upper-body and facial burn contracture releases and a sizeable skin graft.   Burn scars covered so much of her body that our surgeon, Dr. Tertius Venter, had to release five locations of her skin at the same time – both elbows, both armpits, and the skin around her neck and mouth. On top of that Dr. Venter had to take large portions of the skin from both of her thighs to graft onto her neck and arms, leaving Benjamine with seven different wounds to heal.

One day she was sitting at the foot of her bed laughing and even singing to a nurse’s guitar, but she has her on-and-off days. She was in a lot of pain; and her recovery would be a long one.   Needless to say, Benjamine needed our prayers and support more than ever as she made her journey through the pain and into a complete restoration
 She still slept a lot, but slowly regained her energy. During the day she did a good job of getting up and moving around – especially when there were bubbles involved.  
 Sweet Benjamine was on the wards of the Africa Mercy for more than two months. 
It was a long road of healing, however, she has pressed through the pain and kept up with her exercises to rehabilitate those newly freed muscles and joints. During her stay she received a lot of love and she gave us back more love and laughter than we know what to do with.
After 3 months having been through screening, surgery, rehab, dressing changes, games of hide-and-seek, hugs, laughter, and pain, one thing never changed – the smile on her face. On a beautifully bittersweet Monday some of the medical staff threw her a farewell party before she left the ship - these are some of their hugs. Now the Africa Mercy is a bit dimmer without Benjamine's sweet smile lighting up the hallways, but we're happy knowing Benjamine is off brightening someone's day.

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