A teenage boy who spent years seeking surgery for a growing facial tumor that left him with difficulty eating or talking has successfully had surgery thanks to a surgical charity.
Dauoda was only four when a small lump appeared in his upper jaw. The condition was more likely to be picked up by a dentist in other countries, but was much more difficult in its home country of Senegal, where there are only just over eight dentists per 1 million people (0.082 dentists per 10,000 of the population in 2020 (WHO) (https://apo-opa.info/3OOZx3H).)
- Advertisement -
But instead, over the years, it grew into a large, painful tumor. Daouda struggled with eating and lost weight when he hit puberty. For years he hid at home and only left when he sought treatment from his father, Hamady.
An intelligent boy, Dauoda was forced to drop out of school in 2019 when all attempts to find an operation came to naught, despite Hamady’s best efforts.
While Daouda physically struggled to eat, Hamady lost his own appetite.
Hamady, 63, said: “I used to cry when I looked at my child. I couldn’t eat anymore. It was not true that I could eat well, but my child could not.
“We’ve been to Mali, to Burkina Faso – everywhere.”
- Advertisement -
With Hamady running out of options, he learned that international charity Mercy Ships was sending one of its two hospital ships to the port of Dakar, Senegal, to perform free surgeries for those who have little access to safe surgical care.
He knew it would be challenging to get his 13-year-old son to the ship, especially since it meant leaving during the rainy season, a crucial time for his farm. However, encouraged by photos of successful operations on the Mercy Ships Facebook page, Hamady dropped everything.
He said: “When I am not there, my heart is not calm, but when I also see this disease, it is not good either. I have to take him.’
- Advertisement -
Before he left for Mercy Ships, people in his village told him, “This is stupid. Do not go. No one can cure this. They will not be able to cure this either.”
But Hamady persisted.
He said, “When they sent us to the ship, I began to breathe peace.”
Hamady’s surgery was a success and included removal of a tumor, skin grafts and facial reconstruction.
American surgeon Dr. Mark Shrime, Mercy Ships’ International Chief Medical Officer, who performed Dauoda’s surgery, explained that the late discovery of the node and the complicated nature of his case meant that no hospital could perform the specialized surgery.
Dr Shrime said, “Every hospital, every doctor told him they couldn’t do this.”
He added: “Daouda’s story, how his father spent years trying to take care of his son, is why we do what we do. Those are the things that drive me.”
Although Hamady was finally eating and sleeping well again, his instincts still feared the worst.
After the operation, nurses went to get him so he could see his son in the post-anesthesia ward: “When they called me there, I thought he was dead. They said, ‘Come see your child’. Hamady asked incredulously, “It’s over for him? He can speak? Does he have a mouth?”
Australian hospital director Keren Fuhrmeister witnessed the scene as father and son were reunited after surgery.
She said: “When he went in to see his son, I have never seen body language like this – the relief for a father who was never able to get a cure for his son. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look he had. He sat down next to his son and held his hand, and his son just woke up, and he just sat there with pure relief.
She concluded, “He just sat there and said, ‘I think maybe we’ve finally done it’.”
When Daouda was discharged from the hospital ship, he thanked all the volunteers.
He said, “I personally thank you for what you have done for me. When I was at school I was always the top of my class, but my condition forced me to stop in 2019.”
His father is determined that when he returns home, he will return to the classroom.
He said: “I often encourage him. I tell him, ‘Go ahead. It’s never too late. You will catch up. Because you are intelligent, you will catch up’.”
American volunteer professional pediatric nurse Erin Medeiros said Daouda’s intelligence was obvious to everyone and that he picked up even more languages during his time on the ward.
She explained: “Daouda is super intelligent. He picks up on everything that’s going on; he mainly picks up patterns.
“He always wants to have something really stimulating to do. He just has this realization about him. He’s a bit of an old soul – in a small body.
Hamady hopes the fruits of their efforts to get Douda to operate will resonate on a national scale: “Everyone on that road from my village to Dakar knows my child, and everyone will see this and know that he is cured.”
Hamady repeatedly called his family and friends back home to tell them the good news, but no one believed him until he sent a photo.
He said, “No one went to sleep in our house that day. They clapped their hands and celebrated.”
Hamady admitted that he wouldn’t have believed the transformation himself if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes.
His father said after Daouda was released from the hospital ship, “Thank you. I will never forget this. Even if I die today I will rest in peace. All my children are in good health.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Mercy Ships.
This press release is issued by APO. The content is not checked by the African Business editors and none of the content has been checked or validated by our editors, proofreaders or fact-checkers. The publisher is solely responsible for the content of this announcement.