Like boys the world over, Sema is fascinated by planes. As they flew over his home in Conakry, Guinea he would track their course – dreaming about working on one someday. But Sema couldn’t attend school because of his severely bowed legs, and his family couldn’t afford the expensive, limited specialist care in the city. As the eight-year-old stood his straightest, his knees remained 16cm apart.

Hope for the future spluttered to life when Sema’s family heard a Mercy Ship was coming to Guinea offering free surgery that could correct conditions just like his. It seems too good to be true, but finally Sema had hope that things could change for him; hope that he would no longer be rejected by other children because of his deformity.

Sema receive complex orthopaedic surgeries on both his legs, provided by the team of volunteer specialists onboard the Mercy Ship from New Zealand and around the world. The road to recovery was a long one, but when his legs casts were finally removed, Sema could hardly believe his eyes – his legs were healed!

But now he had to relearn to walk.

Each day Sema heroically pushed through his physiotherapy tasks, cheered on by his nurse Robyn from Wellington, Emma from Hawkes Bay and the other Mercy Ships physios developed a rehabilitation plan for Sema to regain his balance and strength. His confidence grew each day as his steps became surer until he could walk and balance on his own.

At last Sema was ready for discharge – standing on his ‘new’ legs and 8 cm taller than when he first arrived on board! Now that’s something worth grinning about!

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Filmed and produced by TVNZ SUNDAY, and made with funding from New Zealand on Air