True North: The Mercy Ship, BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday 24 October at 10.45pm, meets some of the medical staff, their families and the patients for whom a visit to the Africa Mercy is life-saving.
This observational documentary follows eight medical professionals from Northern Ireland who volunteered on the Africa Mercy during the 2015-2016 field service in Madagascar.
Consultant anaesthetist Dr Michael McBrien, from Templeptrick, Co Antrim, has volunteered five times on the Africa Mercy, but saying goodbye to his wife Irene hasn’t got any easier.
Team leader Jane White from Kilkeel, Co Down is half way through a two-year stint on board the Africa Mercy. She has previously spent four years on the ship.
Ward nurses Rachel Lappin from Dollingstown and Louise Little from Scarvagh, Co Armagh, are getting used to sharing a tiny cabin.
The parents of women’s health nurse Lynette Given from Dungannon Co Tyrone, worry about their daughter working so far from home.
And Lynette herself reveals some of the horrors endured by women living in countries without even the most basic medical care.
Young Ballymena couple Dr Ryan Moffatt and his wife Jennifer, a physiotherapist, are temporarily separated when a job interview means Ryan’s journey to Madagascar is delayed.
And operating theatre nurse Dee McCabe from Belfast marvels at how quickly she has adjusted to life on the ship.
Dr McBrien said: “My time on-board the Africa Mercy has made me realise what wonderful skills that my training and 28 years of experience in the health service has given me, and how fulfilling it is to use these skills on a voluntary basis to help other, less fortunate, people in poorer countries.
“Each patient I have had the opportunity to care for was memorable, from the youngest child of three months to the oldest adult, aged around 60.
“I will never forget the wonderful experience of working with a different team of nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists in theatres each day, made up of skilled volunteers from all over the world, committed to serving each other and each patient, and doing so with such love, cooperation and excellence.
“My leaving motto from my experience is, ‘I have gained more than I have given’.”
For viewers outside of Northern Ireland living in the rest of the UK, the documentary can be viewed via Sky Channel 953, Freesat Channel 957 and Virgin Channel 863.
Source: Mercy Ships