Uncharted waters

Dr. Andrew Kirkpatrick serves on a Mercy Ship

Last May, Calgary physician Dr. Andrew Kirkpatrick put his experience and expertise to work serving on Mercy Ships’ African Mary, while it was docked in Togo, West Africa.

Each year the ship visits a different country, docking in the harbour and providing as much surgical care as they can.

Here a hernia isn’t a big deal, but there they can live with them their whole lives and they become disabling. For me, it was a pretty standard surgery, but for them it was life changing.

For Calgary trauma physician Dr. Andrew Kirkpatrick, the chance to spend three weeks working as a member of a medical team on a medical mercy ship was the fulfilment of a promise.

Mercy Ships“I had travelled to Sierra Leone as a medical student back in the mid-80s and always wanted to go back and do something for the people there,” he explains.

Last May he got his chance, serving on Mercy Ships’ African Mary, while it was docked in Togo, West Africa. Each year the ship visits a different country, docking in the harbour and providing as much surgical care as they can. “It’s a huge ship – the size of an ocean liner – and had six operating rooms,” recalls Dr. Kirkpatrick.

While there he worked as a general surgeon, and spent much of his three weeks on the ship repairing hernias. “Here a hernia isn’t a big deal, but there they can live with them their whole lives and they become disabling. For me, it was a pretty standard surgery, but for them it was life changing.”

Although he’s proud of what he accomplished while there, he is quick to note that his stint was relatively short. “We have nurses in the Foothills operating room who have gone for six months.”

He’s already planning his next trip, and hopes to bring his wife – a cardiac anesthetist - and two young children with him. “I’m grateful for the support my family gives me to do this work, and would love to give my kids a chance to see the world and see how lucky they are to be Canadian.”

Find out more about Dr. Kirkpatrick

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