Bowed Legs: Two Hours of Surgery, A Lifetime of Transformation

“You are strong,” 5-year-old Malang’s dad, Sadio, would gently murmur to him during days of rigorous rehabilitation aboard the Global Mercy®. These words of unwavering support became a daily ritual lifting Malang up as he healed from orthopedic surgery.

For Malang, this surgery was years in the making. He was 2 years old when his legs first started curving outward. “At that time, I didn’t know how bad it could become,” said Sadio. He took Malang to several hospitals, but after many consultations, they still had no answers on what caused Malang’s condition – or how to resolve it.

The visits were a strain on Sadio’s humble earnings as a mason. The visits were a strain on Sadio’s humble earnings as a mason. 

“I spent a lot of money there in that hospital… but I was not satisfied at the end.”

As the daunting reality of Malang’s necessary surgery dawned upon the family, their financial constraints loomed. “I went back to my village to do a little business, to help Malang get his surgery…but I could not afford it.”

Sadio remembers that time of life as stressful and sad for the family.

“During that period, I was very sad when I saw Malang walking like that…it was tough for him to walk,” Sadio recalled. “Sometimes his friends would run and leave him behind, and he’d cry.”

Malang is Sadio’s only son. When Malang was born, Sadio looked forward to shared experiences like playing soccer, his favorite sport. But as Malang’s condition worsened, it cast a shadow on this dream.

However, a glimmer of hope appeared when Sadio heard about Mercy Ships from a friend: “He had a relative who had surgery on the hospital ship.” Inspired by this success story, Sadio brought Malang on board the Global Mercy for surgery during the ship’s very first surgical field service in Dakar, Senegal.

Story of Diacko

Changes Lay Ahead

Over the span of just two hours in the operating room on board, the power of surgical access became abundantly clear. For Malang, it was the gateway to a future where he would be free from the limitations that had bound him for so long.

“He may never realize how bad it would have gotten had he not had surgery,” said Dr. Rachel Buckingham. The volunteer pediatric orthopedic surgeon from the United Kingdom performed Malang’s surgery and celebrated the timely intervention.

“The impact of the surgery will be huge. It means he can run around and play with his friends more readily. He’ll be able to obtain an education,” she added.

For Sadio, the surgery was a safeguard against future anguish. “If he is not healed, it will cause him more suffering because his friends can laugh at him. And that can affect his heart.”

Malang’s operation was the first step of many in his healing journey as intensive rehabilitation stretched before him.

“Surgery has helped heal his physical body, but also you can see the social side and how that changes their life completely,” observed Pete Tooley, the volunteer rehab team leader.

Amidst the challenging steps and therapy, Sadio’s devotion to his son remained unwavering. He was a constant presence by his son’s side, offering words of encouragement and a comforting hand to hold during the most challenging moments. “It really touches my heart so deeply,” Sadio exclaimed when Malang’s casts were finally removed, and he was able to stand tall.

Sadio’s aspirations for his son were clear: “I want him to become someone in the world.”

Story of Diacko

To enable other patients like Malang to have access to life-changing surgeries onboard a hospital ship, you can donate here or to discover other patient stories.