Maomai: saved from suffocation

Paediatric nurse Ali Chandra has been delighted to look after this little bundle of joy!
Paediatric nurse Ali Chandra has been delighted to look after this little bundle of joy!
A cervical teratoma is a monstrous congenital benign tumour that can threaten a baby’s breathing
A cervical teratoma is a monstrous congenital benign tumour that can threaten a baby’s breathing
Beautiful Maomai is barely recognizable after her surgery on board the Africa Mercy
Beautiful Maomai is barely recognizable after her surgery on board the Africa Mercy
“I was so desperate to get help for my baby!”
“I was so desperate to get help for my baby!”

Baby Maomai would have probably died of suffocation had not Mercy Ships doctors intervened with vital surgery.

It was the middle of the night, and Perlagie couldn’t sleep. The image of Maomai, her three-month-old baby girl, flashed through her mind every time she closed her eyes. A huge tumour the size of the baby’s head was jutting out of Maomai’s neck. Perlagie looked over at her daughter, peacefully sleeping in her bed, and began to cry.

Baby Maomai was born with a cervical teratoma, a congenital benign tumour that had developed into a monstrous growth protruding from her neck. It started out as the size of a golf ball but after only three months the tumour was almost as large as the baby’s head.

What should have remained a joyful event for the whole family and village â€” the birth of a baby — soon turned into a living nightmare. Now when fellow villagers looked at Maomai, all they saw was a monster. And in a country where physical differences mark people as outcasts, Maomai was not welcomed anymore.

Perlagie and her husband naturally sought out help for their daughter. They took her to a local hospital, but there was no surgeon to operate. For over a week, Perlagie stayed in a local hospital, waiting, hoping and praying for a doctor to come along and help her daughter - but no one came. Eventually they were sent home.

When she returned to her village, her sister-in-law told her about a hospital ship filled with doctors and nurses, which had come to Cotonou. She had just returned from the ship after being treated for an eye problem and thought they could maybe help Maomai.

Perlagie brought her daughter to the Africa Mercy. Seeing the urgency, our medical team prepared Maomai for surgery straight away. But the tumour had made it difficult for her to feed, and Maomai was too underweight to undergo an operation the same day. The medical team placed her on a feeding programme, postponing surgery for one month.

The day arrived for the operation. It took six hours for the surgeons to remove the tumour, which weighed 375 grams — 15% of her body weight!

Maomai spent over a month on the Africa Mercy, recovering and being fed through a tube to help her regain weight. Since her operation she has grown steadily and gained in vibrancy. She is a real-life example of how donor support works. Had it not been for the generosity of people who haven’t even met her, she would have been condemned to die.