LIFE IS SWEET FOR ABEL
Abel Dalome was beaming. He and his father, Koudjo, were enjoying a quiet moment together in the Mid-Ships Café onboard the Africa Mercy hospital ship. Just over two years had passed since Abel had received free medical care from Mercy Ships to correct a severe misalignment in both of his legs. In fact, both of his legs had turned completely backward at the knees. Now, Abel was back at Mercy Ships for a routine check-up. Koudjo was thrilled. He only had good news to report about his son’s progress. He disclosed that on the journey to the ship, Abel had declared, “I will tell them that my life is sweet!”
Koudjo described the amazing transformation in his son’s life. “Before Mercy Ships, we thought that our son would only know pity. We worried that he would not have a life to do something good. And everybody told us that this would never change. But Abel’s life did change. After Abel recovered from the surgery, there was a satisfaction I cannot describe. Now, Abel will go on to do many good things.”
At that moment, Abel’s face lit up with a wide smile as he watched a very special friend appear at his side. Nurse Anna Parthun had tended to Abel during his hospital stay in 2010. When Abel suffered from an infection in one of his legs, Anna showered Abel with even more care. “My mission was to get at least one smile out of Abel every day. The funny faces I drew on inflated surgical gloves always worked best!” she said with a smile.
Now, looking at such a grown-up boy, Anna took notice of the wonderful change in Abel. “He has a new confidence, and his personality is so bright. Just like other boys his age, he is outgoing and energetic. I am so grateful to see how readily he likes to smile. No more need for surgical balloons,” she observed with satisfaction.
Abel shared news with Anna about his activities since returning home after his surgery. “I am going to school, and I walk there all by myself. I am so happy for that. I go to my grandfather’s farm and to the market. I can do all of these things on my own,” he reported joyfully. Abel also confirmed that he was still active in his favorite hobby, playing soccer with his friends in the village.
Mercy Ships volunteer physiotherapist Joanne Gates then took Abel under her tender wing for his follow-up examination. “I examined Abel to determine the progress he has made since surgery. We are especially interested in assessing his strength, range of motion and quality of walking, as well as finding out if he is experiencing any problems. I was pleased that Abel had progressed so well within his limitations,” she explained.
Joanne also arranged for Abel to have x-rays taken of his legs to confirm that all had healed well internally. The x-rays were e-mailed to Dr. Frank Haydon, who had performed Abel’s surgery. Dr. Frank replied joyfully, “Abel’s x-rays look good. His protruding bone is just a product of the necessary surgery because there was such an extreme angulation in the femur. So, we have a very positive outcome here!”
Abel’s dear friend Anna was ecstatic. “Seeing Abel was the highlight of my service with Mercy Ships this time. To be here to witness how he has grown up is a blessing. And now, I know that, in every detail, Abel’s surgery is a permanent success. I thank God, in His grace, mercy and love, for these gifts,” she said.
As Abel and his father departed from the Mercy Ships HOPE Center, where they stayed for their follow-up visit, Koudjo spoke of how he has decided to show his gratitude for all that Mercy Ships has done for his son. “I bring people to Mercy Ships who need help. I brought one person with a tumor, and I will bring my sister’s baby who has a cleft lip. I do this in my own car and with no charge to them,” he explained.
Koudjo has turned his gratitude into acts of compassion. With his help, others will experience the medical care offered by Mercy Ships, and their lives – like Abel’s – will become sweet again.
3 March 2012
Story by Joanne Thibault (currently in our Gateway class)
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell and JJ Tiziou