So among the top requests were more patient stories. These are covered and created by our delightful marketing team on the ship, so they deserve full credit (their names at the bottom of the post). I’ll leave their story to you, I hope you enjoy it!
It was a long, traumatic labor. But, when Abu was born, his delicate frame seemed perfect. His miniature features complemented his dark, curious eyes. Unfortunately, as he grew, a physical deformity became obvious. His legs bent backward in the same way as a chicken’s legs. This was caused by dislocated knees and tight muscles, which prevented the knee bending forward or straightening. This condition usually occurs during a breech birth.
His mother, Fatmata, fell into a deep depression when she realized Abu had a deformity. To make matters worse, the neighbors tormented her. They believed Abu was a “devil child.” They also concluded that Fatmata could not be human if she gave birth to such a creature. When the verbal abuse became overwhelming, she was tempted to throw the baby in the dustbin. Yet, she felt a deep maternal love stirring inside her. So, she hid the baby inside the house and tried to regain acceptance in the neighborhood. Her plan worked because her neighbors assumed the child was dead. Sadly, Fatmata also suffered daily floggings from Abu’s father. The neighbors often tried to stop the beatings, but their intervention only served to fuel his anger. Fatmata became anxious that he would turn against Abu because of the child’s deformed legs.
Then the situation worsened when the neighbors discovered the baby was still alive. From that moment onward, Fatmata was shunned by everyone except her mother. One day, Fatmata was busy with the normal task of scrubbing the laundry in the yard when she heard a radio jingle that changed her life. It announced a Mercy Ships medical assessment day. On the day of the event, she wrapped Abu to her back and went to meet the doctors. Abu was accepted for treatment – a decision that would change their lives forever. Abu was eight months old when he arrived at the ship. With a perfectly formed petite body, he perched like a sparrow on the back of his lower legs while observing the nurses with curious, soulful eyes. His condition made it impossible for him to sit on his bottom. After being hidden in the house for so long, it was a frightening experience to be in a strange environment with many people. His tears flowed all day, and he responded only to his mother’s endearing nickname for him – “BuBu.”
At the hospital, Abu had a successful surgery to allow his knees to bend forward. The onboard hospital was a safe haven for the little boy and his mother. It provided a welcome respite from their daily worries and torments.
Prior to visiting the Mercy Ships hospital, Abu had interacted only with his mother and grandmother. This limited social exposure had produced a very solemn, introverted nature. However, Mercy Ships physiotherapists wrapped him in loving kindness and encouraged his smiles by tickling his feet as they examined his legs. Well-fed, nurtured, and rested from peaceful slumber, Abu grew in height. His constant, worried expression began to relax. Happiness was seeping into his life. Fatmata noticed a huge difference in her son, saying, “Before he was very dull. There is lots of change. After the operation, now he can move and explore places.”
Soon it was time to return home. Abu went to live with his mother at his grandmother’s house, which was next-door to the father. The floggings stopped. The torments calmed. Daily life transformed into happiness. An even closer bond formed between Fatmata and “BuBu.”
Abu and his mother regularly attended the clinic for dressing changes. This was necessary in case Abu scratched his surgical scars, opening the wound. Soon, Abu was ready for a series of leg casts to correctly position and strengthen his legs.
When Fatmata first returned home with Abu, with his newly straightened legs in casts, the neighborhood people felt ashamed for taunting them for so long. They realized Abu was not a “devil child.” Amazingly, Fatmata and Abu were accepted back into the community. As time went by, Abu received regular leg cast changes. He became frustrated by toppling over during numerous daily attempts to sit up with his corrected legs and posture. There were frequent visits to the ship to monitor and assess his progress to straighten his legs. With every visit, his confidence grew, supported by his relationship with the physiotherapy team. One team member in particular, Joseph, had the special touch to calm the little boy’s quivering cries when he was tired. Also, physiotherapist Jana worked her magic to evoke smiles during the challenging leg exercise sessions. Under the kind care of Mercy Ships, Abu developed by leaps and bounds. For instance, his appetite increased, so Fatmata excitedly introduced porridge into his diet and delighted in his interest to suck on pieces of mango. He also formed a new friendship with the neighbor’s baby girl, Yeama. This encouraged Abu to learn how to sit up straight and try to reach toys outside his grasp. His adoration for Yeama was clear as he often threw his arms around her, chuckling with excitement.
After five months of treatment, Abu could finally sit up, crawl, and start to stand up while holding onto a chair. His first birthday was a wonderful celebration because he now had a bright life ahead. With his straight legs he would be able to run and play football with the other children. His delighted mother said, “Thanks to God, I appreciate Mercy Ships work from my heart. Now the people who provoked my child are ashamed and give me help. Abu will become a president or a doctor because he is healthier and happier now.”
Story by Claire Ross
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell and Liz Cantu