But Tresor’s childhood took an unexpected turn when he was just three years old — he was playing outside with his friends when he was accidentally pushed into an open fire.
“There was nobody in the kitchen watching over him. He wasn’t crying out loud, so no one knew what happened. The fire kept burning him. A long time later, my sister discovered him, lying like that,” recounted Tresor’s mother, Mary Magdalene.
The flames burned much of Tresor’s small body, leaving him with wounds along his upper body and face that would eventually fade into rigid scars. The burns on his arm were the injuries that truly left their mark on his young life. Without proper medical care, his wounds healed incorrectly, causing a contracture that locked his elbow into place, costing him the use of his arm and hand.
For Mary Magdalene, Tresor’s accident left deep scars on her heart as well. Because she was not there when he fell into the fire, she vividly remembers the moment she first saw her little boy in this condition.
“I returned home the next morning and found him like this. No one had taken him to the hospital,” she said somberly, recalling how he had been covered in open burns, bones showing on his arm. Trips to the hospital for dressing changes left her in deep debt.
“I cried and felt so bad, saying to God, ‘I’m not sure he’ll survive, I’m not sure he’ll make it,’” she said, feeling utterly devastated that she hadn’t been around to protect him.
As time went by, the limitations caused by Tresor’s accident became increasingly apparent. Without the use of his hand, and his arm locked in its contracture, he needed help with mundane tasks, like putting his clothes on in the morning eating by himself.
Seven years after his accident, Mary Magdalene heard about the Africa Mercy’s arrival in Cameroon and brought Tresor to receive surgery. It was the answer to a prayer they had both echoed for years: that Tresor to one day regain the use of his arm.
He received surgery on board, which removed the dense scar tissue surrounding his elbow, replacing it with skin grafts that allowed him to stretch out his arm. The surgical team also operated on his hand to give him optimum mobility in his fingers.
The road to recovery stretched ahead for Tresor. Before physiotherapy could begin, he had to patiently wait for his wounds to heal. But it didn’t take long for Tresor’s characteristic energy and cheer to return, and it was a common sight to see him tearing around the wards or wildly careening around Deck 7 on his tricycle.
Tresor’s rehab included working to grip objects, pick things up, and carry increasingly heavier loads using his hand.
“His mobility now is basically at 100 percent. He got so excited the very first time he was able to move his elbow by himself,” said Chelsea Darlow, the occupational therapist who worked closely with Tresor during his weeks of physiotherapy. “He’s so motivated – I didn’t even have to tell him to do his exercises; he did it himself. If I say to do 10 repetitions, he’ll do 20.”
When asked how life will change for Tresor after surgery, his mother said he’ll have more independence over his life. He’ll now be able to bathe himself, wash his dishes, eat properly, and write like everyone else.
But in typical 10-year-old fashion, Tresor is excited for other kinds of life changes like playing basketball, keeping up with his friends, and taking on more responsibility as the ‘man of the house.’
His ultimate dream is to become a mechanic when he grows up.
“Since the first time he saw mechanics at work, he told me, ‘This is what I want to do,'” said Mary Magdalene. “He would say, ‘Mummy, I pray we’ll have the money to have my arm straightened.’”
Now, with his arm healed and his mobility restored, Tresor is free to pursue his dreams with open arms.
Written by: Rose Talbot
Photography by: Saul Loubassa Bighonda
Edited by: Karis Johnson