Daouda remembers the fear that gripped his heart when he first saw his new born son Mohamed. “Mohamed’s mother looked at me with tears in her eyes, and she pointed to his tiny forehead. All I could see was a bulge between his eyes that looked so large.”
Mohamed’s parents felt helpless in the face of this strange growth that, even after months of careful massage, did not go away. In spite of the deformity, Mohamed seemed to be a healthy and happy baby, so the family came to an uneasy peace with his condition.
Refusing to give up hope, Daouda saved as much money as possible while praying to find a doctor who could remove the noticeable lump. He explains, “I did not know anything about Mohamed’s problem, but I knew that his life would be awful if he continued to look different. Everyone in our neighbourhood loves Mohamed and treats him well, but as he got older and began school, I knew that would change. Anyone who is different is rejected. I did not want that for my son.”
Daouda also couldn’t stop the nagging feeling that Mohamed’s lump wasn’t as harmless as it seemed. At last, when Mohamed was three years old, the money needed for Mohamed to have surgery at a local hospital was in hand. The lump was removed, and the area stitched closed.
According to Daouda, the results were anything but successful. “Just days after surgery, Mohamed was crying from headaches, and each morning there would be a swelling between his eyes where the lump used to be. Within a few months, the lump had returned and was larger. We were so afraid that our boy was going to die.”
One brief announcement on television, heard by a neighbour, abruptly turned life around for Mohamed. Daouda recounts, “My neighbour said that there was a ship in the port giving medical treatment. I was frantic, thinking that I had spent all of our savings on Mohamed’s first surgery, but my neighbour assured me that I did not need any money. Mercy Ships did surgeries for free.”
When four-year-old Mohamed was examined by Mercy Ships doctors, they were startled that he had survived his first surgery. As Dr Leo Cheng explains, “Mohamed came to us with a fronto-nasal encephalopathy. The lining of his brain had been pressured out of the triangle- shaped opening between his eyes. It could have been disastrous for Mohamed when that ‘lump,’ which was actually brain matter, was cut off. It was very incredible that he survived.”
Mohamed’s surgery was a tag team effort by Dr Cheng and Mercy Ships Chief Medical Officer Dr Gary Parker. Cheng notes, “It is always great to work with Dr Parker, especially doing this type of surgery. This procedure also gave me the opportunity to use a new double-sided absorbable cellotape that I was able to bring as a donation from the manufacturer – Tissue Mat, Inc.”
Dr Cheng was delighted at how well the procedure turned out using the cellotape. “To prevent Mohamed’s brain matter from pushing out again, we needed to close the opening in the skull between his eyes. To do this, we created a shield using the second layer of bone from the piece of skull from his forehead that we removed to be able to massage Mohamed’s brain back into its proper place. The double-sided cellotape worked perfectly to hold the shield in place and prevent fluid from collecting.”
In the days following Mohamed’s surgery, Daouda watched over his son protectively. He was vigilant, keeping his once-again playful and active son out of harm’s way. Daouda notes, “I was so grateful for Mohamed’s treatment and especially that he was feeling so good. But the doctors said it was important to not let anything disturb the shield. I had to make sure the usual knocks and bumps he got into did not happen.”
For Daouda, being able to stay with Mohamed in the hospital was a special gift. He explained, “While I had to close my furniture shop to be with my son, I would not want it any other way. I take much comfort in being so close to him, knowing he is just above me on his bed and that all is well with him.”
After leaving the hospital, Daouda and Mohamed returned to a favourite activity – spending time together at Daouda’s furniture workshop. With heartfelt joy and gratitude, Daouda described the impact of his son’s journey to healing with Mercy Ships: “My boy is whole, and that means I am whole. One day he will be a father. Then he will know how afraid I was that he would die. And he will also know how thankful I am that Mercy Ships gave me all that I wanted for him – a normal life.”