Walking through adversity to a new life

Abel was mocked numerously because of his deformed legs.
Abel was mocked numerously because of his deformed legs.
On board the Africa Mercy, Abel is slowly recovering with his father by his side.
On board the Africa Mercy, Abel is slowly recovering with his father by his side.
An intimating visit: the president of Togo meets little Abel
An intimating visit: the president of Togo meets little Abel
Abel back in his village, with his family... and with straight legs!
Abel back in his village, with his family... and with straight legs!
The future of Abel is looking bright!
The future of Abel is looking bright!

Growing up with backwards legs, 11-year-old Abel refused to let deformity stop him from being a goalie.  Now, with straightened legs, Abel stands ready to face new goals in life!

Abel had a normal early childhood until an injection seemed to cause some muscle problems. His parents noticed he had difficulty learning to crawl. While his muscles stopped growing, his bones did not. As a result, the weak musculature in his legs began to bend them backward at the knee, forcing his upper thighs out behind him. His parents took him to three different doctors, but none knew what to do for him.

Despite his condition, the resolute Abel learned to lean forward, correcting his balance enough to walk, climb and do just about anything any other active boy can do. He even became the goalkeeper on his soccer team. Sadly, he couldn’t ride a bike, since it required sitting straight on the seat and pushing down on the pedals. Abel’s physical deformity made him the target of ridicule. But he remained optimistic thanks to his joyful spirit and the love of his parents.

One day, Abel’s family heard a radio announcement about a Mercy Ship coming to Togo, offering free surgeries. Abel’s hopeful father took his son to an orthopaedic screening in the capital city of Lomé.

A few days later, Abel awoke after his first surgery onboard the Africa Mercy, with his left leg straight out in front of him, wrapped in a cast! As he admired his newly straightened leg, he asked his dad if his right leg would also be straight after the next surgery. His father assured him that it would.

And a second surgery did straighten his right leg. He also had a third procedure - plastic surgery on his knees. Through the round of surgeries and post-operative care, Abel’s sparkling personality and brilliant smile earned him many new friends among the crew and the other children recovering at the ship’s Hospitality Centre.

Though Abel loves soccer, his long-term goal is not to become a famous soccer player. He is now determined to become a surgeon, like those on the Mercy Ship, „because of the things they have done for me,“ he said.

Finally, after more than three months of surgery and recovery, he returned to his home in the village of Homa, deep in the bush. Abel and his father, accompanied by a Mercy Ships team, climbed into the Mercy Ships Land Rover to start the six-hour journey.

What a journey! The Land Rover struggled for more than two hours to traverse the muddy, deep-puddled pathway to Homa. In fourth gear, the intrepid vehicle clawed its way over mucky mounds and through watery ruts. Occasionally, passers-by paused to see if the car would win its battle with the road. A semi-truck stuck diagonally in the mud almost ended the trip. But the Rover squeezed by, narrowly missing the swamp on the right and the side mirrors of the truck on the left.

The team and the Land Rover persevered and they finally arrived. Soon curious villagers surrounded the car, eager to see what the volunteer doctors had done for the boy with the backward legs.

The suspense ended abruptly when the star of the show, a happy Abel, climbed out of the vehicle … with two straight legs! Gasps of surprise, disbelieving stares, and cheers filled the air. Abel was the center of attention. The other boys in the village stood quietly nearby. Could this be the same Abel that they had insulted, beaten up, and called names?

Abel kicked a small soccer ball with his straightened legs, and not one of the boys moved. Abel, who had never retaliated during the mistreatment, smiled graciously at them. He was clearly the uncontested victor on every level.