Nestore walked for over two hours to get to the bus station in Madagascar. He wore flip-flops, which made the long walk more difficult. In fact, flip-flops had been his only choice for footwear for his entire 14 years of life. He wasn’t making a fashion statement. His left clubfoot made it impossible to wear regular shoes.
The walk was long and painful, but he was motivated by his desire to “be like every normal person.” A hospital ship which could treat clubfoot for free was coming to Toamasina. His family was too poor to afford treatment, so the ship was his only hope.
At school, Nestore was defined by his physical condition. Schoolmates called him “Rakapila” – person with the foot problem! When he tried to play football, he was the target of mocking laughter. And the most painful part was knowing that the people doing the teasing were his friends. He says, “I feel very sad many times, but I smile. I don’t let it bother me for too long because I don’t like problems between people, but on the inside I feel very sad.”
Nestore’s radiant smile and positive attitude made an immediate impression on the Mercy Ships crew. Orthopedic team leader Noel Grant (USA) says, “I’ll never forget when he came in on his admission day. His smile was all teeth and just ear-to-ear, and I don’t think it ever left his face until right after his surgery … he brings peace and joy with him.”
When orthopedic OR team leader Kathleen Haydon (USA) was asked if any patients stood out to her, her first answer was “Nestore.”
Repairing Nestore’s clubfoot required two surgeries and months of casting – all provided by the generosity of Mercy Ships supporters and volunteers. Kathleen says, “When we scheduled him for surgery, he was so excited … and he’s still glowing.”
Nestore is thrilled with his “new” foot. He declares, “I am happy when I see my foot! With this surgery, no one can see I had a problem before … my life will be completely different.”
The 14-year-old’s favorite part of his Mercy Ships experience was the shiploads of love the crew showed him during his six months of treatment. It was a soothing balm to a boy who had been so hurt by his hometown friends.
His mother Georgette summed up the things he liked best: “The way the nurses really cared for us and loved us. The way the doctors were so friendly and talked openly. The way the translators would tell the nurses exactly how we feel.”
Nestore found physical and emotional healing … and a new dream. He wants to become a surgeon. He says, “I want to help people like Mercy Ships has helped me.”
Noel Grant says, “He was just so intent on everything the nurses were doing. You could see him processing what was happening.” His fascination with all things medical motivated crew physician Dr. Cori McClaughry (USA) to bring him a medical textbook for some casual pleasure reading! Nestore couldn’t understand the English, but the pictures spoke to him. He questioned translators and nurses as to the meaning of things.
Nestore’s keenness to learn was demonstrated in his quick absorption of English. When asked how he felt, his grinning reply was in English, “Very happy!”
As Nestore left the ship to return home, he was wearing a pair of fancy black sports shoes. He says, “I have reached one of my goals – to wear a pair of shoes.” His wardrobe has said goodbye to flip-flops and hello to two new pairs of shoes.
However, the best part of Nestore’s new look is in his very visible self-confidence. “I’m not shy anymore. I can be proud of myself! People have stopped making fun of me,” he explains.
He adds, “I really want to thank Mercy Ships for coming here because, if they did not come, I would remain like before.”
And now he’s stepped into a bright future … equipped with a new foot, new shoes, new confidence and a new dream.