Plastic surgery works miracles

Benjamine was fortunate to have survived her burns. But the disfigurement caused by them made life miserable for this otherwise bright thirteen year old and things were was only likely to get worse. Her neck muscles contracted severely, and pulled her jaw and bottom lip down and kept them permanently open. It was difficult for her to eat or drink. Passers-by in her village in the Congo would stare and gawk at her. Without corrective surgery such disfigurement only worsens with age as is the case for thousands in Africa.

benjamina en la seleccion de pacientes

Surprisingly she is quite a happy girl, but as she couldn’t smile you had to look into her eyes to see her expressions of emotion. Benjamine’s mother, Marie Jeanne, just wanted a normal life for her daughter. She wanted her to be able to play games with the other kids. For this reason the two travelled for eight hours by boat and another two hours by car to see if there was any hope she could get a free surgery on the big white hospital ship that had arrived in Pointe-Noire.

Six years before Benjamine had playing with her friends when they decided to set a pile of wood on fire. One of the children doused the fire with petrol. The flames suddenly leapt up, igniting Benjamine’s dress and burning her arms, her torso, and her neck. She had no access to proper medical care and so her condition worsened.

Along with her mouth remaining permanently open, both of her arms, at the elbow and underarm, were severely contracted as well. These wounds defined and restricted her life. She hid in the house, unwilling to go outside for fear of the constant mockery and cruelty. She never went to school or shopped in the market with her mother. However, Benjamine’s joyful eyes are testaments to her spirit of survival. “It’s a miracle that Benjamine survived,” Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon, Dr. Tertius Venter, commented.

quirofano

The surgical team spent nearly 2½ hours in the OR working to release Benjamine’s massive contracture that ran from one forearm, up to the shoulder and jaw, then down to the other shoulder, and to the wrist. After her extensive surgery we had a lot of dance parties, played hide and seek, and joined in her sparkling laughter for what seemed like an endless procession of days on the ward.

When it was finally time for Benjamine and her mom to leave the ship the ward staff were sad to see her go. Benjamine’s mum Marie Jeanne told the crew, “God has healed my daughter through you, and the joy in my heart is as big as the change in my daughter’s step, the way she holds her head now, and the way she talks and laughs.”

benjamine adios

In the Republic of the Congo, 179 patients (86 adults and 93 children) received 207 Surgeries and many hours of careful nursing on the wards and physiotherapy – thanks to our amazing plastic surgery team! But now we are moving on to Benin and there many more are waiting for our help. Please partner with us by giving generously to touch the lives of other children like Benjamine!