When Ibrahim was four years old, he fell down while playing and injured his chin. The wound healed, but, over time, his lower jaw began to shift to the right and slowly close. By the time he turned six, Ibrahim’s jaw was locked shut and for the next 12 years he could neither eat solid food nor speak clearly.
Two years after I fell, my sister noticed that the shape of my mouth was changing. My mother took me to a bone specialist who said that a bone in my right jaw had broken and that my mouth was growing disfigured as a result. He further explained that my mouth and chin would not only continue to bend but also become locked as I grew older. He informed me that he couldn’t help me because there was no specialist in town with the sophisticated equipment needed to solve my problem. He told us that the operation could not be done in Sierra Leone.
When I went to secondary school, I suffered many hardships; I was given cruel nicknames by unkind classmates. At first, they called me Mr. Bean, because, according to them I resembled Mr. Bean (the famous British comedian). Later, the name was modified to Mr. Ben – in our local language, “Ben” means something that is not straight – because of the shape of my mouth. I was afraid to grow up living in pain for the rest of my life.
Early in 2011, Ibrahim heard on the TV that Mercy Ships would be coming to Sierra Leone. He went to one of the ship’s medical screenings and received a coveted appointment for free surgery.
I went for my surgery, and guess what? My operation was executed successfully. When I woke up, I looked at myself in a mirror and couldn’t believe it was my face in the reflection. It felt so good…what a miracle!
Before surgery, I remained inside out of shame. Now I go into the street. I meet people. People even tell me I’m handsome now. I have more courage. I talk so much. I like talking. My sisters and brothers say, “You’re talking too much!” because now I talk all the time.
I thank the Mercy Ships crew for their kindness and professionalism.