Adjovi is a demure and pretty 20-year-old woman. Her father died when she was a little girl. When her mother remarried, she and her sister went to live with her grandmother. Adjovi never went to school, so she can’t read, but she does know numbers and can keep accounts very well. Her mother owns a fish business and taught Adjovi how to sell in the market so she could make a living. Although she didn’t go to church, Adjovi sold fish in front of the church every Sunday.
When she was sixteen, a small irritation on her jaw began to grow. Over the next four years, the irritation became a small tumor that soon expanded her chin, disrupted her teeth, and affected her speech. The growth became so large that the infected portions attracted flies that swarmed around her head. Adjovi could no longer work in the market because customers avoided her.
She needed to make a living, so she began to do housekeeping. But the growth and the flies quickly put an end to that. Naturally shy and quiet, Adjovi became the victim of insults and mockery. Finally, she simply withdrew from society and hid in her grandmother’s house. Every day, while her friends were working or having fun, she was alone and idle in her room. What should have been her carefree days of youth were wasting away in misery.
One day, two people came from the church where she used to sell fish. They told her
a Mercy Ship was coming with volunteer doctors to perform surgeries free of charge. Her mother encouraged her to go to a medical screening, telling her it was a chance for a new face and a new life. A ray of hope began to dawn for Adjovi.
“I was full of joy from the day I heard that,” she said. “I began to pray every night that I could have a surgery.”
Her sister and grandmother brought her to the screening where she received the appointment card she had prayed for so fervently. Soon, she was onboard the Africa Mercy , where volunteer surgeons removed the tumor.
Her recovery took several weeks, followed by many post-operative visits. But Adjovi was very patient and followed the doctor’s orders faithfully.
After three months, she returned to the ship for a second surgery to complete reconstruction of her jaw with a titanium insert and bone grafts.
When her recovery is complete, Adjovi plans to take a training course in dressmaking. She dreams of having a business of her own, specializing in making fancy trimmings.
Sitting on her bed in the hospital ward, Adjovi pulled a mirror from her purse to take a peek at her face.
“I like my new face now,” she said. “When I go home, I’m going to go to church … then I’m going to learn something.”
Written by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell