North Adelaide nurse makes mercy trip to Africa helping on a floating hospital

(Adelaide Now) Nurse Lisa Warkentin, 37, from North Adelaide found herself on board the Africa Mercy within three weeks of the appeal, and spent the next two months serving on the mercy ship anchored off the West African nation of Togo.

“It was good to be able to help people and see their lives really change,” she said.

“Just being able to do something small is a huge event, people are so grateful that you are there.

“Just to see lives changed so they can go on, to live and grow old.”

The global charity Mercy Ships operates a 16,000-tonne hospital ship that provides free surgery to some of the world’s poorest people in West Africa.

Africa Mercy has six operating theatres, 78 hospital beds and a volunteer crew of 450 providing services for up to 10 months at a time.

Miss Warkentin said she grew up watching aunts and uncles with their families experiencing missionary life in Africa and Asia.

She decided she wanted to be a nurse before she had even started school, because she wanted to care for people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. As a general nurse on the ship, she saw a wide variety of patients with simple needs, such as men with hernias.

“Here were healthy men who could provide for their families if only they could work hard,” Miss Warkentin said. “Life in Africa is all about brute strength. Take away a man’s ability to work, and you have instant poverty in his immediate and extended family, plus the village.”

Her goal now is to go to the Northern Territory, to help poor and disadvantaged people in some of the most remote areas of Australia.

She said it would be interesting to compare the two, Australia and Africa, and see how the health system provided for remote communities.

For Africa Mercy, the next destination is Conakry, Guinea.

The charity also works on land-based projects in Sierra Leone, in partnership with other organisations, in several nations of Central America and the Caribbean.