Abel was full of life growing up. The young student from the village of Homa, Togo, was jovial, active and eager to learn until an injection at the age of 11 caused him to become the target of ridicule from his classmates who often described him as the boy with backward legs.
The injection caused Abel’s muscles to stop growing while his bones continued to develop. Not having sufficient muscular support, his legs started to bend backward at the knee, and this forced his upper thighs out behind him. His parents sent him to three doctors in his country, but they all couldn’t find a solution until Mercy Ships, an international charity that performs field services in developing West African countries came to his rescue.
Abel’s father, who had been by his side throughout the excruciating moments, had heard on the radio that the hospital ship was on its way to Togo to offer free surgeries. He took his son to an orthopedic screening in the capital, Lome, where they were given an appointment for surgery.
“I first saw Abel out of the corner of my eye, and my heart stopped,” Dr. Frank Haydon, a volunteer surgeon from Colorado, said after meeting Abel at a Mercy Ships medical screening.
Dr. Haydon later performed six surgeries on Abel’s disfigured legs. After physical therapy to train his leg muscles to walk normally, the young boy was able to take his first steps with straight legs to the joy of many. This was after four months of being on the hospital ship with his father by his side.
Today, Abel is able to walk properly again and though he loves soccer, his goal is to become a surgeon, like the crew on the Mercy Ship, “because of the things they have done for me,” he said.
Mercy Ships writes that “through the round of surgeries and post-operative care, Abel’s sparkling personality and brilliant smile earned him many new friends among the crew and among the other children recovering at the HospitalityCenter.”
One might say that Abel defied the odds but for him, he just refused to see them. Having lost his ability to walk straight when he was young, he and his parents could have resigned to their fate. Instead, they pushed themselves beyond their limits to make a difference.