Byline: Jessica Mullendore
Southside resident Katie Campbell spent 3 1/2 weeks in Sierra Leone, West Africa, this year, serving on the world's largest private hospital ship, Africa Mercy.
The operating room nurse returned in April with inspirational stories to tell.
One Saturday during her trip, she volunteered to help run the medical screenings. The screenings determined who qualified as a candidate for medical care and allowed Campbell to get closer to the patients.
"I'm so glad I helped with the screenings because you form relationships with people you can't necessarily form in the operating room because they're asleep," she said.
The patients she helped suffered from ailments rarely seen in the United States. Things like polio and bowleggedness that could be prevented with proper health care.
"One woman walked for three days with her daughter on her hip to come to the ship. She slept on the side of the street on her way over, just to wait in line to hear if she could get surgery for her daughter or not," Campbell said.
The Africa Mercy is the flagship of Mercy Ships, a global charity that has provided free medical care and surgical procedures in developing nations since 1978. Signing up as a volunteer cost Campbell about $2,000 for her plane ticket to Africa and about $600 for room and board on the ship, but it was a small price to pay for what she got out of it.
"The most rewarding part of the trip for me was knowing that I am making a difference. That's huge," she said. "Also, the stories and the faces and how appreciative these people were of the medical care, that was by far the best reward."
Campbell, 26, is operating room supervisor at Center One Surgery Center and a graduate of University of Delaware's Nursing School. She first heard about the Mercy Ships in medical school in 2005, while she was completing an internship with an Amish midwife. But it wasn't until she volunteered in earthquake-stricken Haiti that she decided to take the trip to Africa.
"Going to Haiti was so rewarding and I got so much out of it that I needed to do something like it again," Campbell said. "That's when I remembered I'd wanted to do Mercy Ships for a long time."
In Africa, Campbell joined other volunteers on the ship. …