A Lifetime of Hope for Paulinah

4 May 2016
Paulinah before surgery

Five-month-old Paulinah, the sixth child in her family, was born with a large tumour (teratoma) on her behind. 

Paulinah’s mother Florentine had a very difficult delivery with her. The baby’s head came out quickly but then she became stuck. The midwife was able to help her deliver the baby and when she emerged they saw the big mass coming from the baby’s rectum. Rather than look upon the baby with horror the midwife told Florentine that her child was a gift from God and she emphasized it so much that the baby’s surname NOMENJANAHARY, is translated from Malagasy to mean gift from God.

Florentine had heard about Mercy Ships from her sister who lives in Taomasina. The timing was perfect as Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Sherif Emil from Montreal happened to be volunteering onboard the Africa Mercy. 

Paulinah and her mother had to take a canoe ride across a river, a one hour hike through the mountains and a 4.5 hour ride in the car to bring her baby to the Africa Mercy.

Despite the number of obstacles that stood in the way of the baby’s survival, Dr. Emil was impressed by how Paulinah had chosen to live. In addition, Dr. Sherif was amazed by the care she received.

“This is a difficult patient to take care of (because) you have huge incisions that need to heal. (You have) to keep the area clean and to keep the wound from getting infected takes a lot of work. This baby recovered without infection. It was a testament to the incredible amount of care and compassion the nurses showed this patient and every patient.”

Paulinah with her mother.
Paulinah with her mother.

When Paulinah and her mother arrived home to their village there was a celebration with refreshments and speeches made. Everyone passed Paulinah around, kissed her, looked at her bottom in marvel and wonder and then kissed her again before handing her off to the next person.

Her whole village will certainly remind her when she’s old enough to hear it of the courageous journey that her mom went on to get to the Africa Mercy.

“When you save a child you don’t just save a life but you save a lifetime.” – Dr. Sherif Emil