Mother/Daughter Duo Reunited With Nurse Who Saved Their Lives 30 Years Ago–Now as Co-Workers

30 years and a continent separated Catherine Conteh, her daughter Regina, and a nurse named Aly who was visiting their home in Sierra Leone and saved her life by funding an emergency surgery.

Regina wasn’t born on the day of that fateful meeting, technically, because Catherine was dying after four days in labor. Unable to afford a Caesarean section, that might have been the end if not for Aly Hogarth-Hall, then in her 20s, who was visiting the hospital from a nearby charity.

She managed to acquire the £70 cost for the surgery in 1993 and formed a close bond with Catherine and her new baby Regina, but lost touch.

Then 18 months ago, as Catherine and Regina prepared to go to work aboard a charity called Mercy Ships, which operates a hospital ship on the coast of Sierra Leone, they got to see Aly—now 52—as she climbed aboard for a stint of volunteer work.

“To see Catherine again, it’s very surreal really,” said Aly, who is working in the dining room with her while Regina is on nursing duties. “It’s not something I ever expected until we made contact again, 18 months ago or so, so it was overwhelming.”

“We just sobbed. We cried and cried,” Catherine quickly added.

Mercy Ships operates hospital ships that deliver free surgeries and other healthcare services to those with little access to safe medical care, and it’s where she had originally met Catherine all those years before.

“The nurse told me that she would die, and the baby would die,” Aly recalls.

Aly informed a colleague, a British anaesthetist Dr. Keith Thomson who was part of her tour group, who paid for the surgery.

“Then the nurses came up to me and explained, ‘Look, these strangers who came in are going to pay for your Caesarean section,'” recalls Catherine.

Whilst visiting Catherine in the hospital was easy enough, they lost touch when Aly returned home to New Zealand and Regina gained asylum in Australia.

Catherine followed Regina there and they both became nurses, inspired by Aly.

They stayed in Perth, Australia, but Catherine regularly returns to Sierra Leone to serve her local community—even fundraising to found her own school.

The pair will spend the next month volunteering aboard the Mercy Ship while the ship’s crew carry out surgeries and train more than 200 Sierra Leonean healthcare professionals. Their bond remains as strong as ever, and this time they have no plans to lose touch ever again.

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