Monica Ciolfi has returned from Tamatave, Madagascar where she spent three months volunteering with Mercy Ships on board the world’s largest charity hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.
“Working on the ship reminded me of what an honour it is to take care of people in their most vulnerable state and how much I love to care for people,” said the 27-year-old Qualicum Beach registered nurse who works at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.
“I have a lot of reassurance that I am working in the right career and I am good at what I do,” she said and admitted “I am still feeling some reverse culture shock and it’s taking some time to get used to routines back in a developed country. I have a greater appreciation for the little things in life.”
The charity organization uses hospital ships to provide free transformative surgeries and training in the world’s most impoverished places.
Ciolfi paid her own way to live and work as a ward nurse in the plastics and women’s health specialities on the ship which has an 82-bed ward, five operating rooms and a crew of more than 400.
She cared for patients with large tumours and women who suffered from obstetric fistula, a child birth related injury which often resulted in the loss of their babies and rejection from their families and communities.
“We have a healthcare system. In our country it is a right not a privilege. In too many places it’s the other way around” she said.
“One of our patients, Sambany, traveled for days and sold one of his rice fields so he could have a chance at surgery” Ciolfi said. “When he arrived with a tumour on his neck, 16.45 lbs, they weren’t sure if they could do surgery, and if they did, if he would live through it. Surgeons went ahead with surgery and he made a full recovery. He received 17 units of blood during his hospital stay and being that the crew is the blood bank, I had the honour of giving him one unit of my blood.”
For more information visit www.mercyships.org/volunteer.