Two days walk to a doctor

Thirteen-year-old Isabelle lives in a remote village in the mountains of Madagascar, where the journey to get to the nearest medical help starts with a two day journey on foot along a muddy track. What she thought at first to just be a toothache grew very quickly into a large tumour.

Isabelle before surgery

She was told she was no longer welcome at school because her fellow students and teachers were afraid it might be contagious or a curse, and others in her village yelled out nasty things to her. Her only playmates were young Vaeka (4) and tiny little Gina (2), who were able to see the person behind the large lump on her face.

Isabelle and her family were worried that the rapidly growing tumour could kill her and with nowhere else to turn she began to pray for a miracle. A small transistor radio was the family’s only connection with the world beyond their village. Then one day to their great surprise, a radio announcement said there was a hospital ship providing free surgeries.

They encouraged Isabelle to go and see if she could get help, but her mother was expecting a baby, and her father could not leave her alone for long with their other small children, so he accompanied her on the two-day walk out of the jungle, and then sent Isabelle off the rest of the way with her 18-year-old sister Lalao.

After being selected at a screening day and after a biopsy and a CT scan on board the ship, finally the test results showed that the surgeons would be able to operate on Isabelle. Even though her surgery was delayed a week because of a tropical cyclone nearby, and was complicated by the need to reconstruct her eye socket, Isabelle finally got her miracle.

Isabelle after surgery

Now she has left the ship to return home and complete the healing process. As her stiches heal and the swelling gradually subsides, allowing her face to return to normal, she will finally be able to go back to school, enjoy life and have hope for her future, just like any other teenager in her village.