Local nurse returns from volunteer work in Africa

By Heather Sawaski, Local 5 News

Published 05/09 2014 04:39PM

Updated 05/09 2014 06:22PM

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - A Green Bay woman is back from volunteering in Africa on the world's largest charity hospital ship.

Mercy Ships is a global charity which operates a fleet of hospital ships in developing nations. Brittany Wiesman spent the past four months on the Africa Mercy helping those in need in the Republic of Congo.

"I love people," Wiesman said. "I love talking to people and caring for people so nursing was just kind of a natural progression."

This past January, she went one step further. The 26 year old nurse took leave from her job at Aurora Baycare Medical Center and boarded the Africa Mercy.

"They travel along the coast of Africa, the western side," she explained. "and do free surgeries for anyone and everyone that qualifies."

She treated hundreds of patients with conditions rarely seen in the United States.

"Just various tumors and growths," Wiesman said. "A lot of burn contractures that were just never treated."

Wiesman recalls one of her most memorable patients. A young girl named Benjamine.

"She had fallen into a fire when she was young and just never got it treated," she said. "Her jaw was stuck open and her arms were contracted out."

After months of care, Wiesman was able to watch her grow and thrive.

"After a lot of hard work and rehab, she was able to close her jaw and chew like normal and put her arms down by her side," Wiesman exlplained. "She was able to write and go to school and do normal things that kids can do again."

Wiesman said the people of Congo are brave and amazing. She said it was a rewarding experience she wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

"Just to watch their reaction and see them look in the mirror for the first time after surgery and say that tumor is gone," she added. "That contractor is better and i can close my mouth. It just grabs your heart."

Wiesman said she gained a lot of skills she plans to incorporate into her job back at home, like spending more time and getting to know her patients. She said she can learn just as much from them as they can from her.

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