A RETIRED anaesthetist who has spent years working on the Mercy Ships that bring medical help to Africa's poorest people is currently raising money to give two young people from the Congo new faces - and new hope.

Keith Thomson, 70, of Winkfield Road, North Ascot - is a grandfather of two who has worked at Ascot’s Heatherwood Hospital and Wexham Park at Slough. He also spent a few weeks annually for 20 years on the mercy ships Anastasia and then Africa Mercy working with medical teams performing life changing surgery in Africa.

But his good work took a new direction when he was visiting Uganda in 2014 and spotted a woman in a church choir with a disfiguring but benign facial tumour, similar to many he had seen on the ships.

He arranged for her to be treated by his friend Doctor George Galiwango at Corsu Hospital near Kampala. Dr Galiwango is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon - a COSECSA Fellow in Plastic Surgery. 

The change the operation made to his new friend's life inspired Doctor Thomson to take a new course.

He said: "She now works for me finding other people in Uganda with facial tumours that can be treated and I help to fund the operations they need at Corsu Hospital. We have helped over 30 people in the last two years."

He is currently half way through raising the £7,000 needed to fund travel and treatment for 23-year-old Sarah Lemba and 27-year-old Hugues Lilonga from the Congo - where there are no surgeons who can perform the operation they need. His good friend Josee Wilkinson who works in the UK but was born in the Congo is working with him to raise the money.

Sarah and Hugues found their conditions made life impossible in the Congo. Sarah said: "My stepmother believed I was a witch and did not want me near her other children."

Hugues said: "At work no-one went near me because they feared the malformation of my face was contagious, I almost lost this job."

Doctor Thomson said: "Sarah and Hugues only met for the first time in Kinshasa just over two weeks ago. They are now booked on a flight from Kinshasa in the Congo to arrive in Entebbe, Uganda at 1am on August 28. They are scheduled for surgery at Corsu Hospital on the 4th and 5th of September."

The eight hour operation will see the tumours removed and their faces reconstructed using the fibula bone from their leg. Their lives will be transformed.

You can contribute on www.virginmoneygiving.com/SomeoneSpecial/HuguesandSarah, or by cheque payable to ‘Action for Congo M and C’, Mrs Josée Wilkinson, 35 Stonor Park Road, Solihull B91 1EH.

The link to CORSU’s website is https://www.corsuhospital.org/