Satou is a happy, friendly 6-year-old who loves being around people, but unfortunately, her windswept legs caused many in her community to tease and reject her.
“Satou is actually a happy child. She doesn’t like being sad,” her mother, Khady, said. “She is also strong-willed and determined and gets very upset when she feels that she is not respected.”
Khady shared that the constant taunting made Satou feel ashamed and helpless, as though she was always the object of mockery — so much so that whenever she heard someone laughing, she immediately assumed that it was because of her.
Her little legs had begun to bend when she was 3 years old. Her mother was dismayed and tried to find out what had happened to her daughter, but a visit to the traditional healer in their area resulted in a dead-end.
“In our society people assume witchcraft or disease, and they exclude such people,” Khady said. “I was worried about my daughter and wished that she could be like the other children in the village.”
Satou’s family was very disheartened. With no access to medical care, Khady worried her daughter would never find the healing she’d need to stand tall. Then someone told Khady about the arrival of the Mercy Ships hospital ship the Africa Mercy. Her mother rushed Satou to a patient screening, where she was given a date for the surgery that would straighten her legs.
“I have not dared to even dream that it is possible that my daughter’s legs can be straightened,” Khady said. “It feels as though the doors of heaven were being opened for her.”
When Satou was admitted to the hospital, it marked the beginning of a new chapter — one of physical and spiritual healing — in her life. In the hospital, and later in the Hospital Outpatient Extension (HOPE) Center, she was accepted and loved by the volunteers and other patients. She was able to play with many other children who, just like her, had been outcast because of a physical disability outside of their control. She was in a community and surrounded by friends — to play with, encourage, and laugh with.
Many times during her healing, Satou would ask her mother for her walker so that she could practice walking. Sometimes she would stand, without holding onto the walker, clapping her hands and trying to dance. Eventually, she abandoned the walker and began moving around on her own.
“When we spoke with her father, Satou told him, ‘I’m strong, I walk alone, and my legs are straight!’” Khady said.
Finally, after weeks of healing, Satou’s casts were allowed to come off, and she could finally enjoy her newly straightened legs! The day her daughter’s casts came off is a day that Khady says she will never forget. She says that seeing her daughter’s straight legs is her best memory of their time on the ship.
“I thought, ‘How is it possible for people to have the ability to straighten legs that are crossed,’” Khady said. “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 taken care of onboard the Africa Mercy. Gone is that sad little girl, who could not run with the other kids. Now, Satou will be able to embrace her life to the fullest!
“As every mother does, I am praying for her to be like others, return to school and to be integrated into society,” Khady said. “I believe that she will now have an easier life — one that is full and successful!”