While 5-year-olds Ousseynou and Assane may look alike, it’s obvious to see their different personalities –Ousseynou is outgoing and cheeky, while Assaneis quiet and reserved. However, if you were seeing them for the very first time, it would be very difficult to tell the two apart.
They share more than just their good looks —both boys developed an identical condition that made their legs curve outward at the knee, and as they grew, their knees continued to grow further apart, causing them both to be ridiculed by those around them. The twin’s parents, Abdukka and Awa, worried that there was nothing that they could do to protect their children.
“It was hard for us. We knew that the neighbors were laughing about the twins,” Awa said. “We could not hide Ousseynou and Assane away, so we all had to live with people treating them as inferior.”
Mame Sor, a nurse at the local clinic, knew of the twins’ ailment, and dedicated her time to help their parents find healing. When Mame Sor heard about Mercy Ships coming to Senegal, she shared this exciting news with Awa and arranged to collect the boys and their mother to drive them to the patient registration.
Days before the twins were due to see a surgeon, she drove Awa and the twins 343 kilometers to the capital city of Dakar. This was the furthest the twins had ever been away from home, but the closest they had ever been to finding healing. It was also the first time any of them had seen a ship.
Awa was a bit nervous about all of these new experiences, and even more so when the nurses came to take Ousseynou and then Assane to the operating theatres. But after the operation, when her boys were wheeled out, she was thrilled for the opportunity for free surgery!
“When they came back to the ward after the surgery, and their legs were straight in their casts, I was so, so very happy,” she said.
During the weeks following the surgery, the twins quickly won over the hearts of the volunteer and day crew on the Africa Mercy while they worked on rehabilitation. They were soon discharged to the hospital outpatient extension (HOPE Center), where they continued their recovery along with the many other young orthopaedic patients they had befriended in the Orthopaedic Program.
Once their casts came off, the physical therapy sessions became a bit tougher. The goal was to improve their range of motion as well as their balance and strength. Eventually, the twins were moving faster and more confidently than they had been able to before.
“Since I gave birth to Ousseynou and Assane, I have never seen them run,” Awa said. “The surgeries created this opportunity. It is something that comes only once in a lifetime.”
Now, both boys have a bright future. When they turn 7 years old, they will be able to start school with renewed confidence! Awa is so proud of her boys, saying, “I was living with doubt about their future, but the hard part of their life is over now!”