Breaking with Tradition
Habibatou and Mamadou had never experienced this much joy and sorrow all at the same time. Their first baby Batouli was a precious gift and they were so excited when she was born. This tiny newborn girl was perfect, except for one small thing, she was born with a split upper lip and one side started growing up towards her nose. Her parents had never seen anything like this before, and they did not know what this meant for their daughter.
They didn’t know it was a common birth defect call a cleft lift. What they did know was that deformity meant real hardship for anyone in their society. Many people would think their daughter was a bad omen or haunted by an evil spirit. Could Mamadou and Habibatou keep their child hidden like so many did when there was an obvious physical problem?
Batouli’s father Mamadou bravely decided to break with tradition and speak out about his daughter’s condition. He asked the people in the village if they had seen an upper lip like his daughter’s. No one, not even the elders, had ever seen anything like this.
An Unexpected Solution
When Mamadou called his brother Musa with news about the baby’s problem, Musa’s response was surprising. “Mamadou, do not worry. There is a ship coming with doctors who help babies like yours. They have done many surgeries, for free, to correct this problem.”
Mamadou arranged for Habibatou and Batouli to stay at Musa’s home in Conakry so they could find out more about this hospital ship. Habibatou recalls the experience. “We did not know for certain when this ship would come or if the doctors could help. I was afraid, but I had to have faith for the sake of my daughter.”
The hospital near Musa’s home confirmed that Mercy Ships would be screening patients for surgeries the next week. Habibatou spoke softly, “I was grateful to learn from the hospital nurse that Batouli’s condition was called a cleft lip and that Mercy Ships did these surgeries. She said that Mercy Ships would take very good care of Batouli and that Musa was right – Mercy Ships did not charge any money for doing the operation.” By noon on screening day, Habibatou was clutching a Mercy Ships surgery appointment card for Batouli.
Hope for the future
On the day of Batouli’s surgery, Habibatou impatiently waited for the outcome of the operation. Within a few hours, she was holding her daughter in her arms. Habibatou spoke on behalf of her family, saying, “We are so grateful that our break with tradition brought us to Mercy Ships. This break has changed our dear Batouli’s life.”