The images are both painful and disturbing, fueled by the lack of access to healthcare, conditions that aren't seen in this country.  

Meghan Duggan,CHI Memorial nurse says "I was so full, my heart was so full. I feel more grounded from coming back for sure."

That's why Chi Memorial nurse Meghan Duggan jumped at the opportunity to join nurse anesthetist, Ray Alonge on a special medical mission aboard Mercy Ships, a two week journey that took them from Chattanooga to Madagascar, Africa.       

Meghan Duggan says "I've never seen anything like this before, the tumors are huge."

People wait for days in long lines hoping to to board the floating hospital for the chance to get help and healing for potentially life threatening conditions.

Meghan Duggan says "We did orthopedic surgeries, obstetric surgeries, we did facial surgeries, big tumors on the maxilla."

Meghan and Ray were among 400 volunteers from 40 nations who provided free specialized surgeries for local residents in desperate need of medical help.

Ray Alonge says "It's a common sense of purpose and a community of faith so it's a lot different from anything you experience at home."

That sense of purpose is why Ray has been volunteering for the past ten years.  They say the patients inspire and encourage them.

Meghan Duggan says "I think the people there are just incredible."

While volunteers are able to perform what patients see as medical miracles, giving them a sense of hope and dignity.  Unfortunately not every case has a happy ending, some tumors are malignant.

Meghan Duggan says "So if we biopsy it and it's malignant we can't really do anything about it because they are going to have to die of a natural cause. We don't have chemotherapy over there, there's no resources to treat that."  

At any given time during its 35-year history, Mercy Ships has had between 1 and 3 ships in service. Currently, the Africa Mercy is the only Mercy Ship providing medical care. And it's desperately needed. Healthcare simply isn't an option in most cases. That lack of treatment often leads to complications, lifelong disability or even death.

This trip definitely strengthened Meghan's faith and confidence in the medical field.

Meghan Duggan says "That I can make a difference for the person in front of me, I can't fix everybody, I can't help everybody, but whoever is in front of me that day I am going to focus all my attention on them."

A definite comfort to patients.