Satou is a happy and friendly 6 year old who loves to be around people, but unfortunately, her genuinely worthless legs caused many in her community to tease and reject her.
“Satou is actually a happy girl. He doesn’t like being sad, ”said his mother, Khady. “She is strong-willed and determined and gets very angry when she feels that she is not respected.”
Khady shared that the constant teasing made Satou feel ashamed and helpless, as if she was always made fun of, so much so that whenever she heard someone laugh, she immediately assumed it was because of her.
His little legs had started to bend when he was 3 years old. Her mother was shocked and tried to find out what had happened to her daughter, but a visit to the traditional healer in her area resulted in a dead end.
“In our society, people take on witchcraft or disease, and they exclude those people,” Khady said. “I was worried about my daughter and wished she could be like the other children in town.”
Satou’s family was very discouraged. Without access to medical care, Khady worried that her daughter would never find the cure she needed to stay upright. Then someone told Khady about the arrival of the Ships of Hope hospital ship, the Africa Mercy . Her mother rushed to take Satou to a patient screening exam, where she was given a date for surgery that would straighten her legs.
“I have not dared to dream that my daughter’s legs could be straightened,” said Khady. “I feel as if the gates of heaven are being opened to him.”
When Satou was admitted to the hospital, it ushered in a new chapter, one of physical and spiritual healing in her life. At the hospital, and later at the Hospital Outpatient Outreach Center (HOPE), she was accepted and loved by volunteers and other patients. She was able to play with many other children who, like her, had been marginalized due to a physical disability beyond their control. She was in a community and surrounded by friends to play, laugh and support each other.
Many times during her rehab, Satou would ask her mother for her walker so she could practice. Sometimes she would stand, not holding onto the walker, clapping her hands and trying to dance. Finally, he got out of the walker and began to move on his own.
“When we talked to her father, Satou told him: I’m strong, I walk alone and my legs are straight! ‘” Khady explained.
Finally, after weeks of rehab, Satou was allowed to remove the casts, and she was finally able to enjoy her straight legs! The day his daughter’s casts were removed is a day Khady says he will never forget. Seeing your daughter’s straight legs is her best memory of her time on the boat.
“I thought: How is it possible that people have the ability to stretch their bowed legs?” Said Khady. “It was magical, the kind of thing one can only dream of.”
Khady says she is so grateful and relieved that she took the leap of faith to trust that her daughter would be well cared for aboard the Africa Mercy . Gone was that sad girl, who could not run with the other children. Now, Satou will be able to embrace her life to the fullest!
“Like all mothers, I pray that she will be like the others, go back to school and integrate into society,” said Khady. “I think she will have an easier life now, a full and successful life!”