“There are people who make faces like clothes - They build my face just like God… "I will never forget you and I thank you every time I see my face…” Melkias, Facing Africa patient, January 2012
Every year, Mölnlycke Health Care sponsor the charity Facing Africa by donating our products for them to use on their medical missions. Founded in 1998, Facing Africa currently funds two teams of highly skilled and experienced volunteer surgeons to carry out an annual mission to Ethiopia to perform complex facial reconstructive surgery on the victims of the disease Noma. Noma (Cancrum Oris) is an acute and ravaging gangrenous infection infecting the face. The victims of Noma are mainly children under the age of 6, caught in a vicious circle of extreme poverty and chronic malnutrition. Estimates claim that 80-90% of Noma cases die from the disease, but even those who are lucky enough to survive it are left with the unsightly, painful and debilitating ravages of this dreadful disease. Facing Africa is dedicated to reconstructing survivors’ faces and giving them back their smiles.
This year, Facing Africa have invited one of us to join them on their October mission to Ethiopia…step up Heather Stead, one of Mölnlycke’s Account Managers. Heather has worked for our Surgical Sales Division for the past 7 years, and has a great passion for both our products and for the company’s ethics. Heather’s experiences of seeing firsthand the magic that is worked in the operating theatre led her to apply for the opportunity to join the mission:
“During my time at Mölnlycke, I have built excellent relationships with clinicians, having daily interaction with surgeons, anaesthetists and the theatre team. Being confident within the clinical environment and seeing how the team work together to achieve the results that they do amazes me, and I will embrace the opportunity to be part of this truly life changing experience.”
Although she is looking forward to playing her part in the mission, Heather is not expecting it to be easy:
“The mission itself will not only be humbling, but a tough challenge and I do not expect it to be easy. However, this will be a life changing experience for me personally. It is something that I have only ever imagined, but to actually be part of this experience will be an unbelievable honour. To be able to give something back whilst learning so much with this experience and seeing what a huge difference it makes within people’s lives would be the greatest achievement. Being a parent myself, I would like to help with supporting the families, even if it is entertaining the children with colouring books!”
As part of her preparation, Heather spoke to some contacts who have completed charity medical missions of their own
“I have spoken to a Consultant Anaesthetist and a Perfusionist who have both attended several missions to Eritrea to assist with paediatric cardiac surgery. Both said that even though they were just doing their regular job, they find the missions so rewarding and it made them feel that they are giving something back. I have learnt a lot from our conversations.”
It will be a challenging and at times emotional journey, but Heather can’t wait to get started:
“I am feeling excited and nervous but am looking forward to experiencing and seeing a different world. I already feel humbled looking at how these children live, and I am honoured to be a part of this mission to help these families. I’m hoping that I can make a child smile, and see how this procedure will change these families lives.”
Follow Heather’s incredible journey here, as we keep you updated with her story as it happens.
Learn more about Facing Africa