A mission of mercy

Dr. Glenn and Teri Mandeville volunteered on the Africa Mercy in Guinea, West Africa. (Courtesy Photo/Mercy Ships)

Manistee couple spend two weeks aboard hospital ship

MANISTEE — Charity may begin at home, but one couple’s desire to help has taken them from Manistee to the coasts of West Africa and back again.

For two weeks, Dr. Glenn Mandeville and his wife Teri, a registered nurse, volunteered from April 21 to May 4 aboard the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest private hospital ship, docked off the coast of Conakry, Guinea.

The Africa Mercy — run by humanitarian organization Mercy Ships — provides free medical care to developing countries including Guinea, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Volunteer surgeons like Dr. Mandeville remove tumors, repair cleft palates and provide many other life-saving operations for those in need.

“We probably saw 60 to 80 patients come through the recovery room,” said Teri Mandeville. “We had three operating rooms and the recovery room running continually.”

“I operated on about 40 patients myself,” added Glenn. “And that was just in two weeks.”

The Mandevilles were impressed by the accommodations aboard the Africa Mercy, a 16,500 ton, 500-foot-long ship.

The Africa Mercy is the world’s largest private hospital ship staffed by 400 volunteers from 40 nations. (Courtesy Photo/Mercy Ships)

“They are up-to-date on everything,” said Teri. “They have 400 volunteers for 40 different countries doing every possible job on the ship, it just was an excellent experience and a phenomenal organization.”

The lower decks are a modern hospital with an intensive care unit, multiple operating theaters, laboratories and a recovery ward.

“It is a first world recovery room with modern equipment,” said Teri. “We take care of patients the same way we take care of them here in the United States.”

“Most medical missions aren’t really set up to allow us to do that,” Glenn added. “It might just be primary care, humanitarian care or working under primitive or austere conditions where you’re not really doing what you’d be doing here in the United States.”

Mercy Ships wasn’t the Mandevilles first charitable excursion. Glenn and Teri have volunteered their medical skills toward relief efforts in Haiti on multiple occasions.  “We’ve been to developing countries before,” said Glenn. “Every time you go, you notice the enormous difference.”

The path from Manistee to Guinea was not a quick one for Glenn and Teri.

“That’s a long trip, going over to Africa. Unfortunately there’s not a direct flight or anything like that.” Glenn said.

The couple first drove to Chicago and boarded a flight to Amsterdam. After a layover, they flew through Paris to Conakry, the capital of Guinea where the boat was docked.

“It’s a long way over and back,” Glenn chuckled.

Mercy Ships volunteer Dr. Glenn Mandeville (left) operates on a patient. (Courtesy Photo/Mercy Ships)

Before joining the Africa Mercy medical unit, Glenn worked for 26 years as a general surgeon in Indiana before retiring to Manistee last year. The Mandevilles first met during Glenn’s residency. They’ve been partners in marriage, medicine, and missionary work nearly ever since.

Pauline Rick, public relations coordinator for Mercy Ships, emphasized the desperate need for volunteers like the Mandevilles.

“Our patients are very desperate for help and come from all corners of the countries where we serve. Some come on buses or taxis. Others walk.” Rick said.

Teri Mandeville was particularly effected by the pediatric surgeries.

“I’ve done minimal pediatric care in the recovery room or in critical care and these babies are coming to us with wide open cleft lips and cleft palates and they’re going into the recovery room with their cleft closed. You go from a big airway to a small airway and its very nerve-racking.”

Glenn is appreciative of the opportunity Mercy Ships provides to help others.

“Just being able to help out those people even one at a time, a little bit at a time, makes a difference in their lives,” added Glenn. Mercy Ships makes a point of showing these people that may have never seen anyone give them that care and love for free without any strings attached and show them that there is hope and healing out there.”

The Mandevilles encourage anyone thinking about volunteering to contact Mercy Ships.

“Regardless of people’s backgrounds and skills, they can contribute if you’re willing to just get there and help out these people who are really desperate,” said Glenn.

For more information about Mercy Ships visit mercyships.org. Volunteer opportunities are available

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