He doesn’t see what we see – the large brown eyes, the enchanting inquisitiveness. It has actually been a mission to get to see those big brown eyes. When we first met him, he kept his head down shyly most of the time. But, bit by bit – salama (hello) by salama – his head would come up a fraction quicker, a fraction higher.
His fascination with our world was quickly obvious.
We couldn’t help but think, “Are we in the presence of a future Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Galileo? What does he see in that floor that we don’t see?” To us, it was a flat concrete slab, useful mainly for standing on. But to Dyllan, it was a concrete garden playground, fertile with possibilities.
Unfortunately, his perception of himself is inaccurate and discolored. He can’t get seem to get past the skin draped across his upper body and stretching across his left arm like an uncomfortable, restrictive blanket that tries to grasp his face and stifles his neck movement. He focuses on the forlorn lumps that make up his left ear.
It’s a miracle he’s still alive.
One ill-fated day, when Dyllan was three, the wind pushed a door, which pushed a cooking set (a cooking pot sitting on a fire-containing base), which pushed boiling water out and down, down, down … onto Dyllan. The pain and screams were horrifying.
The next several years of Dyllan’s life were a series of wretched events. He started swelling, and his burn scars caused his airways to be impeded, making it hard to breathe. His left arm could barely move. He loved football, but could not play because he became tired too easily.
His family’s money was consumed by hospital bills, two surgeries that were only somewhat helpful, and all kinds of medicine.
Life was difficult. “I look older because of what I had to face … there was no money. There was a hopelessness … we didn’t know what to do anymore,” his grandmother says.
Out of all of these challenges, the biggest problem for Augustine was that bright little Dyllan did not want to go to school. “My friends tease me. They make fun of me,” he explains.
Dyllan’s sad transformation was a personal grief for Augustine. Her friendly, chatty Dyllan, who was unafraid of people, was now hidden. “We are so sad about this situation. We want him to be like all the other children, not always shy when it comes to facing people,” she says.
We, the Mercy Ships crew, catch glimpses of the boy behind the self-consciousness. He now likes to yell our names before running away, giggling, to hide. Sometimes he shows us that he is capable of blowing bubbles.
We want Dyllan to want to go to school. We are impressed with how he engages with the world. He is a boy-shaped bag of potential. He even learned how to knit while on the wards!
We’re happy to report that school is now in Dyllan’s future. A free surgery released the burn contracture in his neck. Our prayer is that, during our next field service in Madagascar, his neck will be flexible enough to do another surgery to release the contractures under his arms.
One day a crew member was walking past the warehouse when she heard her name. She turned. It was Dyllan.
He proceeded to put his hat in his mouth, snapped his head up to release the hat, let it twirl in the air … to land onto his head! He had invented this trick himself. Clever boy. Our rehab team informed us that before the surgery, this trick would not have been possible.
Augustine says, “I cannot imagine how his life would be … if Mercy Ships had not come to Madagascar. We did not have any other solution. It was like an answer from God.”
We walk into the wards and there he is, looking at an important-looking machine, pressing important-looking buttons.
“Dyllan’s taking his own vitals,” we are told. He’s been a plastics patient for only a few weeks, and he’s already learned to do medical things. He’s also counting to ten … in English.
Watch out for Dyllan’s name in the future – who knows where his unleashed potential will take him.