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Norwich doctor's life-changing mercy missions

JonPayneCrossEyesNorwich consultant anaesthetist Jonathan Payne, has given up several weeks holiday each year for the past 12 years to help provide free life- changing operations for Africans with the Christian Mercy Ships charity. Les Champion reports.

When you meet Jonathan Payne, it's not difficult to think to yourself, 'In a life-threatening situation, if that man said jump", I'd jump!' Which is rather re-assuring because, as a consultant anaesthetist, specialising in paediatrics, at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, Jonathan holds life in his hands on an almost daily basis.
And not only in Norfolk because, for the last 12 years or so, he has chosen to give some of his annual leave to serve on the Mercy Ships.
He has joined a Mercy Ship, usually berthed in a West African port, at least once a year since 1998, for two or three weeks (and once for 15), to assist in hundreds of life-changing operations.
JonPayneCrossEyesB4Sierra Leone is one of the frequent ports of call for the huge hospital ship Africa Mercy, an ex Danish rail-ferry, staying in port for approximately six months at a time. 

Jonathan said: "It brings hope and freedom from a wide range of health problems we've not seen in the developed world for many decades due to the comparably high standards we have. Cleft lips, huge tumours, cataracts, etc are the stuff of daily medical life on board.
"One of the most life changing operations is for thousands of African women who, following childbirth, suffer from permanent incontinence (fistulae), which creates a stigma, and makes them a social outcast."
Jonathan, in his early 40s, lives in Costessey with wife Joanna and their little girl. He first became aware of the Mercy Ships ministry in 1991 whilst still training.
"I knew in my heart straightaway that this was for me, but I decided to delay involvement until I was qualified and had more experience under my belt. I am keen for us in the developed world to understand that most of the world lacks the advantages we have, and that we need to do something about it."
Although Mercy Ships is a Christian organisation, you do not have to be a committed Christian to serve on the ships for up to a year. But it is expected that participants are sympathetic to Christian ideals.
Beyond a year, only committed Christians are accepted, and go through a period of training. Applicants have to arrange and pay their own travel costs, and approximately £10 a day towards accommodation and food.
If you are interested to know more on a personal level, you can contact Jonathan via King's Community Church, on 01603 765795.
Pictured above, Norfolk doctor Jonathan Payne with one of his patients, Aminata, before and after the operation to correct her crossed eyes.


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