A few months ago, in November and December, I was privileged to be a part of leading the Orthopedic Surgery Program on the ship. We provided 76 children with free orthopedic surgery to repair deformities of the legs and feet that will allow them to walk, run, play and grow like a normal child again! I could write pages on why I love these patients and how much it means to see them progress through surgery and rehabilitation but I will let one of our amazing ship writers share a story from one of our very special little girls, Miracle.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
“Mom? Where did these scars come from?” Miracle will one day ask her mom, pointing to the marks on her leg. And Sylvie will be ready to tell her daughter the story, which will sound something like this …
“You see, my child, I know you can’t remember, but when you were born, one of your legs was shaped quite differently than the other. I don’t know why it happened, and neither did the local doctors. They said there was nothing they could do. Part of me didn’t mind because I loved you from the moment I saw you, no matter what. But another part of me worried about the pain it would cause you one day. I wondered, ‘Would it be hard for you to walk? Would others see you as different?’
“As your first months turned into your first year, I’d hoped and prayed for your leg to straighten and that you’d somehow grow out of whatever was causing this. But there was no change. You fell down often, trying to walk like the other kids. (I can’t say I didn’t cherish the moments you reached for my hand to steady yourself!) Still, you were very determined. You didn’t let this challenge hold you back, and soon you were getting into everything. I could see early on the strong woman you’d become one day. Still, I wanted so badly to find a way to help you.
“Then, on a hot day in August, while selling bread in the market, I heard an announcement on the radio. I listened as closely as I could, trying to hear over the noise of the crowds. The words ‘orthopedic surgery’ and ‘Mercy Ships’ rang out as clear as day. Immediately I said, ‘That’s for us!’ as a hope ignited deep within me.
“We went to see the doctors, and they examined your leg. At only two years old, you didn’t know what it all meant. They asked you to walk to the other side of the room, and you did. ‘Now walk back to us,’ they said, while they tested and measured. It was there that we received the news. The doctors said they could straighten your leg with surgery. ‘Could it be true?’ I thought. Then they handed me a yellow card with a date on it. It was our ticket to hope. I guarded it with my life, knowing one day I’d pass it along to you along with this story.
“I remember counting the days for our next visit. I remember as we walked up steep stairs onto the large white boat as it sat calmly on the water. The doctors met with us and explained the surgery and recovery. As I listened, all I could think was: ‘Whatever you need to do, Doctor! Do your work!’
“The next day, they took you to another room while I waited. I prayed with the other moms: ‘God, go with the doctors – be their hands while they work.’ After a few hours, you were brought back, ready to wake up from medicine. They told me everything went well and according to plan. I was so relieved! Your leg was wrapped in a hard bandage they called a ‘cast.’ As I examined it, I realized that inside that hard bandage was my little girl’s leg, no longer bent in the wrong direction. I was so filled with joy!
“During the days that followed, there were moments when you struggled. ‘Get this off my leg right now!’ you hollered, pointing to your bandage. I did everything I could to calm you – and so did the nurses. And as more days passed, your leg continued healing, along with your spirits.
“The time came for us to leave the ship, but the bandage stayed on. Your third birthday had just passed. I was so proud of you. Proud of how strong you’d been and proud of the future you had in store.
“A few weeks later, we went back, and they took the hard bandage off. I couldn’t believe my eyes … and neither could you! It was almost too much to take in. But then it occurred to me, ‘Why am I surprised that God answered our prayers?’
“Now, my dear girl, when you see those marks on your leg, remember how much I love you. You will always be God’s Miracle to me.”
Story by Windsor Marchesi
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Miguel Ottaviano and Justine Forrest
Miracle was born with a windswept leg, making it hard for her to walk. She wants to be able to do what the other kids do.
Miracle had free surgery on the Africa Mercy. She didn’t like the “hard bandage” at first, but quickly got used to it.
Now that Miracle’s leg is straight, she can walk easily and do what other kids can do! Sylvie and Miracle are so happy, and they have a special message for everyone who helped make it possible – “Thank you!”