The Surgery Ship, a new SBS documentary screening narrated by Australian actress, Toni Collette, follows the life transforming work of Australian medical volunteers aboard the world’s largest independent charity hospital ship who provide free surgeries to desperate patients from poverty-stricken West African nations.
Shot on location onboard the Africa Mercy in Guinea, a country where there is only one doctor for every 10,000 people, director Madeleine Hetherton and her film crew documented the professional and emotional challenges faced by medical volunteers and their patients.
As a result of the extraordinary lack of medical services in countries such as Guinea, medical volunteers are presented with diseases that are today extremely rare in Western countries. Patients seek help for massive tumours, deformed limbs, severe burns, cataracts, post-war injuries and other medical problems. Unable to receive medical care any other way, the patients literally put their lives into the surgeons’ hands. The results are heartwarming, dramatic and life altering.
The volunteers treat as many people as they can, such as Maimuna, a 13-year-old girl who suffers from a large neuro fibroma tumour that has engulfed her eye and after surgery is able to fulfill her dream of going to school.
Hetherton observes: “The Surgery Ship is also a story about the everyday heroism of both Africans and the volunteers, and the human drive to rise above circumstances, to survive, and give the best of ourselves.”
Medical volunteers have transformed the lives of more than 2.42 million people in the least developed countries for more than 35 years. Surgeons, nurses and other staff volunteer their services and pay their own expenses.
The Surgery Ship was commissioned by SBS and made with the support of Screen Australia and Screen NSW. It was directed and produced by Sydney-based production company Media Stockade.
The Surgery Ship premieres on SBS ONE, 8.30pm, Tuesday December 10, 2013.
To view the trailer or for more information please visit mercyships.org.au