How the remarkable began for Tene
Mariam, a successful West African businesswoman, was passing through Tene’s Guinean village. She spotted a group of children by the side of the road, and she stopped to offer them a handful of sweets when her eyes landed on one girl in particular: three-year-old Tene.
With deep amber eyes and a smile that is quick to come and slow to leave, little Tene captured Mariam’s heart immediately. She watched the child playing for a while before she noticed Tene’s imbalanced gait and uneven feet. One was normal, but the other had an oversized ankle and foot. She would later learn that this condition was caused by an amniotic band — thin strands of tissue that wrap around forming body parts during pregnancy, restricting blood flow and affecting limb growth.
According to Dr Tertius Venter, a volunteer plastics reconstructive surgeon onboard the Africa Mercy, when treated soon after birth this condition can be cured with a relatively simple surgery. However, the longer it’s left untreated, the more complicated it becomes – and can even result in the loss of a limb.
“I was really sad … It was my first time seeing this kind of sickness,” Mariam said. “She’s just a baby.”
Like you, Mariam was touched by Tene’s plight but she didn’t stop at feeling sorry for the little girl. Mariam put her compassion into action and decided to do what she could to make a difference for Tene.
Everyone needs a friend who dares to believe
Mariam knew they needed something amazing to happen, because fixing Tene’s leg seemed like an unobtainable dream. She began asking at local hospitals if anyone knew where help could be found.
An answer came. News of the upcoming arrival of the Africa Mercy had spread through Guinea, and Mariam set out to connect Tene with the Mercy Ship — hoping for a miracle.
Despite not speaking the same language, Mariam brought Tene and her mother, Saran, into her home only a few kilometres from where the Africa Mercy was docked in Conakry.
Tene was accessed by the Mercy Ships medical team. She met kind-hearted volunteers from New Zealand and around the world donating their skills to provide what had previously seemed impossible. Your generosity meant the whole medical process – from assessment and surgery to physiotherapy – would be provided without any cost to Tene’s family or to Mariam! Tene was admitted and had the operation on board to remove the amniotic band and cut away the swollen tissue.
After surgery, Tene’s foot gradually shrank back to normal proportions. Through regular rehab exercises, her clunky gait slowly grew into the confident walk of a curious three-year-old. Puzzle books, colourful toys and TLC from our crew members nurtured her through recovery.
Just a few months later Tene was able to wear regular shoes for the very first time.
Saran and Mariam watched on with pride knowing Tene would now grow up with the chance of a normal life. Thanks to the generosity of huge-hearted people like you, dreams became reality.
With her leg healed, Tene spent Christmas with her family. Now she can walk on two sturdy feet, run races without holding back, attend school and enjoy a carefree childhood without the condition that once defined her future.
This Christmas children like Tene are hoping for a gift that will change their future – the ability to hold a pencil, to see clearly or to stand with straight strong legs. Thank you for being an answer to their prayers by making a gift today!