Emmanuel Essah wanted a better life, but not necessarily for himself. So when he left his home country of Benin in West Africa to attend a Biomedical Equipment Technology program in Dallas, he had no plans to stay stateside. He was more interested in helping people back home.
Five billion people across the globe lack access to safe surgery. In some cases, there aren’t enough nurses and doctors to care for the sick. In others, the medical equipment just won’t work.
“When medical equipment is purchased or donated to hospitals [in developing nations], it is installed and set up. However, when the equipment breaks down, the chance that these machines will be repaired is very low,” said Essah, who now works as a volunteer biomedical engineer with the organization Mercy Ships.
Essah repairs and maintains medical devices aboard Africa Mercy, a floating hospital that travels along Africa’s coast offering free lifesaving surgeries where medical care is nearly non-existent. Although his patients are not people, but machines in need of calibration or restoration, Essah’s job saves lives nonetheless. It is the “same body, different parts” mindset that encourages him to keep tinkering. “In order for healthcare services to be safe, it takes not only well trained nurses and surgeons and doctors, but also well trained technicians that make sure medical devices are safe and reliable. No one thinks he is more important,” he said of his colleagues. By replacing a blown fuse or soldering a disconnected wire, he becomes a doctor of sorts, resurrecting equipment that is in turn used to resurrect the hope of Africa’s poor and sick.