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SIRA’S STORY

Sira makes a confident return to school after life-changing surgery

She’s a courageous six-year-old. Sira has the confidence to go to school after receiving life-transforming surgery from a surgical charity.

Sira, a bright and intelligent girl from a rural community in south-west Senegal did not want to go to school due to the jeering and staring she received from classmates because of her condition, a result of malnutrition. Her legs started bowing when she was four years old.

More than once, Sira came home from school crying about being mocked for her condition.

But her father Ibrahima would insist she keep going and emphasised the need to get a good education.

Ibrahima, a farmer and shop owner, felt his limited education had held him back in life.

He said: “I knew if she had an education, then it wouldn’t matter what her legs were like. When you don’t have an education, you can’t get a good job. You can’t support yourself and your family.”

He told her to ignore the stares and taunts, but it was difficult for Sira.

Her mother Binti said: “I was always worried because her friends would laugh at her. Sira was always so friendly, but when people started staring, she became so shy. She wasn’t happy.”

Binti had been trying to find ways to make her daughter feel better ever since her condition developed. “It wasn’t enough,” she admitted.

The numerous medical visits were also straining the family’s finances as they did not have a steady source of income to cover the medical bills.

“I said, ‘When God is ready, he will cure her,’” Ibrahima recalled.

Two years later, Ibrahima found out through the radio about international charity Mercy Ships offering free surgery for conditions like Sira’s.

He said: “We have our neighbour who had already been there, and their child was totally cured.”

Sira underwent screening and was selected to receive surgery. As her father had to stay to tend to his farm and her mother had to look after Sira’s younger siblings, Sira’s grandmother Diaite accompanied her for surgery on the hospital ship docked in Dakar, travelling over 12 hours to get there.

After successful surgery, Sira undertook a 12-week rehabilitation journey which included relearning how to walk and rebuild the strength in her legs.

Rehabilitation team leader Dean Hufstedler started her on bed exercises, and then progressed to exercises on a walker. He said: “I remember Sira because when we would explain what we wanted her to do, she just swung her legs off the side of the bed and slipped her feet down to the floor, grabbed onto that little walker, and just took off.”

The ship crew observed that after every rehab session, Sira insisted on tying her own shoes. She was determined to do it herself, refusing help, with a quiet confidence and smile, intent on accomplishing each set of exercises on the path to healing completely.

It was this remarkable determination and resilience that sped Sira’s healing process along.

Her grandmother continually kept her worried parents updated.

Diaite said: “I called them every day and told them not to worry. The people here [on the Africa Mercy] were taking good care of us, we had food, we had a place to stay, and Sira was getting help.”

After three months Sira returned to her village, to the delight of her family.

Sira immediately went back to school when she returned. Her experience now is much more positive, to the relief of her parents.

Her parents believe her healing will allow her to reach her full potential.

Binti said: “If she studies hard, she will succeed and she will help herself and people around her. I used to think that her legs won’t change her entire life, but God helped us.”

 Ends

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