Oconomowoc nurse helping patients in Central Africa from hospital ship

NOW: Oconomowoc nurse helping patients in Central Africa from hospital ship

An Oconomowoc woman makes her way home Friday after more than three months helping people in Central Africa.

Amber Smid is a nurse working with Mercy Ships. The charity organization provides free surgeries to people in developing nations.

Doctors perform those surgeries on a ship which is ultimately a floating hospital. It has five operating rooms and an ICU among other essentials. The ship is currently stationed in Cameroon.

Smid works with blind patients who need cataract surgery. She’s the person who makes sure they’re healthy enough to have the procedure.

"It's a blessing to be that person to say, okay we are going to schedule you for surgery and you're no longer going to be blind. You should be able to see which is amazing,” Smid said while skyping from the ship with CBS 58 Morning News anchor Jessica Tighe.

Smid admits it’s tough to tell people when they don’t qualify, but she says delivering the good news is life changing.

“It's incredible. People are just broken down in tears, some are lost for words, and some get up and start dancing,” she explained.

While many people think about adults having cataract surgery, the volunteer crew with Mercy Ships sees many kids too.

“I got really close to one patient. He was 17 and blind in both eyes by cataracts. Things we don’t really see happen in the United States,” Smid said.

The 25-year-old nurse has had a passion for mission trips since her first one when she was a student at Oconomowoc High School. She decided to pursue health care after one of her brothers was born with a genetic disorder. Mercy Ships meshes the two interests.

Smid will be back home with her family in Oconomowoc in time for Christmas.  

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