A Sheffield nurse swapped her life on a city ward for a hospital ship in Africa.
Amanda Woollard, a sister in the Emergency Department at the Northern General Hospital, travelled Madagascar to volunteer with the charity Mercy Ships, which delivers free healthcare and surgery to some of the world’s poorest people.
The city nurse lived on the floating hospital ship, staffed by 400 volunteers from around the world and known as the Africa Mercy, for three months while nursing women with obstetric fistulas - tears sustained during obstructed labours that cause incontinence if left untreated.
Amanda said: “We were treating women from rural villages who, without access to any healthcare, had suffered from prolonged, obstructed labours. The outcome for them was a deceased infant, permanent incontinence and a broken heart.
“On the ship we were able to surgically repair the fistula and send them back into the community.
“Without this simple surgery the women would suffer from long term problems and be outcasts from their own villages. The satisfaction was huge because we were able to see the patient journey from beginning to end and the transformed lives.
“At the beginning the women would not be able to look you in the eye for the shame of their incontinence; by the end they were full of joy and confidence encouraging the other patients waiting for surgery.”
Amanda said the experience had helped her develop nursing skills to use in her work in Sheffield.
She said: “This life changing experience has sharpened my nursing skills and given me broader horizons as an individual.”