In this day and age, the idea that a birth defect could cause a child to be shunned by his own family seems unthinkable. However, until recently, this was the case for Mamadou, a 17-year-old Guinean boy born with a rare condition that caused his peers to nickname him “Devil Hands.”
Born in Conakry, Guinea, Mamadou suffered a medical disorder that prevented him from straightening his arms or dropping them below his head. The fact that the teen’s elbows were bent permanently inwards with the wrists turned down didn’t just affect his ability to work and earn a living; it also made him an object of mockery among his own people. However, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Tertius Verner, a volunteer plastic surgeon for Mercy Ships, Mamadou is now enjoying a happier and more productive life.
At his family’s insistence, Mamadou had resorted to begging in the streets of Conakry, 300 miles from his hometown, when he learned that a ship called the Africa Mercy had docked. Part of a global Christian charity called Mercy Ships, the Africa Mercy is a floating hospital that provides free medical services for those in need. Mamadou quickly boarded the ship and told doctors about his condition and all the ways in which it had affected him. It didn’t take long for the surgeons to decide to do what they could to help improve Mamadou’s quality of life.
A volunteer plastic surgeon, Dr. Venter began by transferring a finger from Mamadou’s right hand to his left and using it to create a thumb. He then lowered Mamdou’s right arm. While the limb remains curved inward, Mamadou is able to use it to a limited degree. He enjoys full function with his left arm.
Mamadou is pleased with the efforts of Dr. Venter and the rest of the Mercy Ships team. He believes that trying to correct his right arm issues would have made his condition worse overall. Additionally, Mamadou reports dramatic life improvements since undergoing surgery. Because people were no longer scared of his appearance, Mamadou was able to stop begging in the streets and help support his family without fear of shaming them. Currently, he works alongside his uncle at a market stall in Conakry. He hopes to one day own his very own stall at the market and start a family of his own.
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