EMBARGOED UNTIL OCTOBER 2022
On the morning of his 20 th birthday, Cire celebrated in an unusual way: being wheeled into the sterile operating room of the Africa Mercy®.
The moment had been years in the making for Cire, who was just 16 when a parotid tumor started growing on the right side of his face. An overwhelming fear immediately settled in his stomach. It was a familiar feeling; he had felt it three years earlier before an identical tumor was removed from the left side of his face.
His parents were equally frustrated. They had no source of income and were worried they wouldn’t be able to get Cire help this time. The medical expenses and surgery from the first tumor had exhausted their savings. In fact, most of the funds had come from friends and family in their village who fundraised to get Cire that surgery at a local hospital.
This time, they could only wait and hope for a miracle. And as they did, the tumor grew – and the challenges grew along with it.
Cire is naturally quiet and shy. He takes his time to warm up to new people and situations. The stares from people made social interactions even harder. “It (the tumor) wasn’t beautiful, no one would want to have it on their face,” says Cire, who constantly felt uncomfortable in public.
In 2019, his father heard about the floating hospitals of Mercy Ships from a friend and encouraged Cire to go for an appointment. “At this point, we had asked everyone we knew for financial support, they couldn’t help, and we had run out of options. We were constantly praying for help,” Cire says.
COVID-19 disruptions left Cire waiting for another two years before he could get to the port and board the Africa Mercy. Cire and his family lived in Matam, a region in eastern Senegal – more than seven hours from Dakar, where the ship was located. But Cire was determined.
In 2022, he traveled the distance.
His birthday gift awaited, as he finally received his life-changing surgery.
There had been false starts in the weeks leading up to this day. His blood pressure had been slightly high, causing his surgery to be delayed.
“We ran several tests to see if it was an ailment, but we couldn’t find anything wrong. Then I asked him if he was nervous, and he said he was scared,” said Denise Clarke, a volunteer nurse on the pre- operative team.
But Denise and the team put him at ease, talking to him about the surgery and answering all his questions.
His surgery took more than two hours – but it went safely and successfully!
A few days later, the nurses at the ward threw him a belated birthday party to mark the new year.
“It felt like getting an extra gift. I was grateful for the surgery and then they gave me this celebration, I was so happy,” Cire recalled.
As an added gift, Cire experienced a smooth recovery. He stayed with his nearby uncle and aunt until he’d recovered enough to travel home. His uncle, Amadou, described the family’s elation at seeing Cire healed: “It’s a joy if someone does something for you that you can’t do. And all his relatives called and pray because of the joy.”
His aunt, Dienaba, believes the surgery has given Cire a new lease on life. “I notice after the surgery he is more motivated, he is stronger, he has more hope, and he has more courage,” she described.
But during his recovery, the main thing he looked forward to was simple: going back home. The first thing on his wish list? Visiting friends and family to show them the change in his face. This time, he didn’t think he would be uncomfortable with the stares.