British Surgeon Performs Life-changing Surgery for Amadou, Age Four 

Surgery performed by a British consultant on board a hospital ship has helped a four-year-old boy transform his life.  

Amadou, from Senegal, was struggling to walk or move due to rickets. Every step was painful for him. His carer, Mariatou, said watching his condition was heartbreaking. Amadou desperately needed surgery. 
 
After learning of Mercy Ships – a charity that runs the two largest civilian hospital ships in the world – Amadou was introduced to British orthopaedic consultant Dr Rachel Buckingham, who operated on him soon afterwards to straighten his leg.
 
Dr Buckingham – a surgeon at an NHS hospital in Oxford and Mercy Ships volunteer – said:

Amadou’s left leg was very weak – it curved outwards and his knee bent at an uncomfortable angle. I could see he had rickets – a condition often caused by malnutrition and not enough Vitamin D.   
  
I don’t see conditions like this in the UK because children are treated before deformities become severe. But in West Africa, there are far fewer specialised surgeons.

 Amadou has a new life following the operation, said Dr Buckingham.  
 
She added:

After surgery I saw him smile as he looked down to see his now straight leg healing in a plaster cast. It took him time to learn to walk again, but once he did, nothing could stop him. Now he can run, play and go to school with his friends.

Mercy Ships runs the world’s largest charity hospital ships, delivering free, world-class surgical care to women, men and children facing real need in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Buckingham first boarded a Mercy Ship in 2019.  

Although it was her first experience volunteering with the charity, she was propelled by a long legacy of service. Her grandmother became a doctor 100 years previously – at a time when some UK universities wouldn’t qualify women as physicians. 

She said:

My grandmother was a doctor and a trailblazer. In the 1920s she went off as an unmarried woman to India. It was she, who was my inspiration. Hearing what she did, including her work with leprosy patients, made me decide, aged 10, that I wanted to study medicine. And I did not want to do anything else from then on! 

Dr Buckingham has also helped to train and mentor the next generation of surgical specialists on board the hospital ships in sub-Saharan Africa, making an impact for decades to come.
 
“Mercy Ships is a breath of fresh air. It is so professional. People come from all over the world who are properly trained and vetted, and you see an incredible can-do attitude to work together to change lives,” she added. 

On Easter Sunday, Dr Buckingham will share about her experience working on board a Mercy Ship on BBC Radio 4 at 7.50am and 9.25pm. Mercy Ships is asking donors to generously help fund surgeries for children like Amadou at mercyships.org.uk/radio4 

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