Saturday, July 13, 2024

Stepping into a Brighter Future, Boy’s Life Transformed by Charity Operation on Bowed Legs


Malang from Senegal had been to multiple hospitals in his home country in search of medical help without success.

“It was tough for him to walk. I was very sad when I saw Malang walking like that,” his father Sadio recalled. “Sometimes his friends would run and leave him behind, and he’d cry.” 

His parents could not find a surgeon who could perform the necessary operation and looking for help was financially challenging for the whole family.

When Malang’s family heard that he might be eligible for free, safe surgery with international charity Mercy Ships from a neighbour, they took him for screening. They were overjoyed when he cleared for surgery on board the charity’s purpose-built hospital ship the Global Mercy™ which was docked in Dakar, Senegal.

There he met British orthopaedic consultant Rachel Buckingham, who was volunteering on board. Dr Buckingham knew instantly that the five-year-old’s bowed legs were just the beginning.  

“It would have got worse over time,” she said. “He would have been severely limited in his walking ability.” 

Dr Buckingham and her team began treating Malang with vitamin D to strengthen his bones. They also performed a complex surgery to straighten his legs. 

“The impact of the surgery will be huge,” Dr Buckingham said. “It means that he will be able to run around and play with his friends more readily. He’ll be able to obtain an education.” 

Fortunately, Malang will never have to carry the worry that his father shouldered. 

“He himself will probably never realise how bad his deformity would have got had he not had surgery,” she added. 

Dr Buckingham said: “Coming here you notice some stark differences in the lack of surgical care,” she said. “We treat children with severe deformities. Back home they would never be able to get to that point because we would have treated them in early life.” 

Day crewmember, Ka Dieye from Senegal, who worked in the hospital’s rehab department as a translator, said the little soccer fan showed a remarkable recovery after the major four-hour surgery.

Ka said: “Three days after his surgery, he wants to play football. Can you imagine that? And when he was in the intensive care unit, he started walking. He was very happy.”

Amidst the challenging steps and therapy, Malang’s father remained by his son’s side offering encouragement and support.

“It really touches my heart so deeply,” Sadio exclaimed when Malang’s casts were finally removed, and he was able to stand tall.  

Sadio’s aspirations for his son were clear: “I want him to become someone in the world.”

Malang’s situation is common, not only in Senegal but around the world. It is estimated that 5 billion people globally lack access to safe surgical care – and that approximately 1.7 billion of those are children like Malang. This burden is felt especially heavily in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly half the population is under 18.  

A 2021 study that took place in four sub-Saharan African nations found that 60-90 percent of patients in need of surgery would face ‘catastrophic’ costs if they went through with the operation. 

Surgeons like Dr Buckingham not only perform surgeries but also mentor and train local surgeons on board so that partner nations, such as Senegal, can strengthen their health systems from grassroots to Government, by providing education, training and advocacy programs.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Mercy Ships.

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