A former anaesthetist at Basingstoke hospital attended the wedding of his “African daughter” in Sierra Leone last week who wouldn’t have been born without his help.

Almost 27 years to the day, Dr Keith Thomson paid £70, the equivalent of one year’s salary at the time, for a caesarean operation for a mother in Africa who would have died without his aid.

Now all grown up, Regina Conteh has followed in his footsteps and pursued a career in medicine as a nurse now based in Perth, Australia with her new husband Sahr Koroma.

The bride and groom shared two ceremonies on Wednesday and Thursday last week, a traditional African ceremony dressed in a striking red and blue outfit and western ceremony wearing a floor length white gown.

Speaking exclusively to the Gazette, Keith said: “It was an absolutely fabulous event, probably the best wedding I’ve ever been to. It was very emotional for me; I was really quite tearful seeing my African daughter on her special day.

“There was so much music and dancing with an amazing spread of food in the evening. It was really interesting to see senior members of the tribe have such an active role in their wedding.

As a wedding gift to the happy couple, the father-of-two paid for a professional photographer from the Isle of Wight to fly out to capture the ceremony and celebrations.

The bride calls Keith her uncle after the kindness he showed to her and her family over the years.

She said: “Uncle paid for my mom’s c-section when Mamma and I were literally dying because she had been in labour for four days. He paid the $100 needed for the operation because Papa couldn’t afford it due to the civil war and the struggling economy.

“And over the years he has always been there, he’s never missed a birthday or a celebration. He has visited us when we lived in Africa and when we made the move to Australia, so he has literally always been there.

"It was really special to have him there, what with the coronavirus going around right now, at one point it seemed he might not be able to make it. 

"But he being there made things feel complete, it’ was just ‘normal’ for him to be at mine and Sahr’s wedding”.

The 72-year-old from Ascot was volunteering with a medical charity in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in March 1993 when he first met Regina’s mother, Catherine, who was 18 at the time.

Now a mother-of-two, the lifelong friends are in the process of writing a book, tentatively titled ‘A Starfish called Catherine’ to share Catherine’s inspirational life after Keith saved her and her daughter nearly three decades ago.

Keith added: “We are writing a book [with the help of] a South African former journalist who now lives in London and has previously published three books herself.

“It’s been two years in the making and there’s still a lot of editing to do but the wedding will be an appropriate ending for the first edition”.

The pair hope to see each other again in the future and have regular catch ups over the phone every fortnight, with plans to visit the family in Australia very soon.

Regina said: "It was really special of course with the whole corona going around at one point it seemed he might not make it and he being there made things feel complete”.