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Yaya, Guinea 2012


Yaya didn’t dare to hope his terribly twisted legs could ever be restored, even when he heard the Mercy Ship arrived  Guinea, West Africa’s port city, Conakry where he lived

‘I did go to the screening with my friend,’ Yaya confessed, ‘but I lost my courage.’ The little boy left without being examined. But Dan, one of the Mercy Ships orthopaedic staff, spotted him in the distance.

Later another crew member saw Yaya on the other side of Guinea’s capital city, and took a picture … it was the same little guy that Dan was looking for, knowing Mercy Ships could offer the surgical intervention to straighten his legs and change his life.

Dan finally tracked Yaya down at the local Mosque and delivered the news that he had an appointment at the hospital ship if he wanted it.

But Yaya missed his appointment. As he said, ‘I did not believe I could be healed, and so I did not want to tell my grandmother to bring me. She would be too disappointed.’

But another seemingly divine coincidence occurred that finally put Yaya and Mercy Ships together. A government official, Cellou, who had befriended Yaya at the Mosque, was at the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic that same week in 2012. He casually asked what a young boy with deformed legs needed to do to get an appointment. It was quickly realized that the boy in question was Yaya and that he just needed someone to bring him to his appointment.

Cellou immediately went to Yaya’s grandmother with the news about the boy’s appointment. They agreed that he would go to the hospital ship with Yaya.

Yaya was born with a condition that caused his bones to be very brittle. When he began to walk, the pressure on the bones caused multiple fractures.

Kiwi nurse Amber remembers when Yaya arrived at the Mercy Ship unable to walk. ‘He broke the hearts of everyone he met with his cheeky and inquisitive personality. Yaya came to the ship with knowledge of street life in Guinea, and only the ability to speak Susu – his local dialect. He left speaking some English, and a few words of a variety of other European languages. Yaya has been exposed to a loving community and now some insight into a world beyond begging.’

Yaya loved Amber’s ukulele. ‘He would sit there strumming it singing This little light of mine. I loved how there is an overwhelming emphasis on music and dance, laughter and fun amongst the African people. My highlights were being able to sing, dance and joke around with my patients – even if we spoke different languages, we could still laugh together. It was amazing to realise how much in common we have. Once the initial barriers are broken and trust begins to build, you realise the commonalities all the more.’

The surgery he had on board aligned Yaya’s leg bones correctly, and the two rods installed gave his legs the needed strength and structure so he can walk normally. ‘He left the ship three months later walking with crutches on straight legs,’ recounted Amber.

Nurse Dan’s post-op visit a few years later indicated Yaya had sadly not progressed as well as hoped in his healing journey.

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