Crippled by bowed legs

Caused by malnutrition or other factors, bowed legs is a serious health issue in developing countries
Once the splints come off, Maurel will be able to walk away into a better life

Three-year-old Maurel, from Benin, sleeps in a hospital bed onboard the Africa Mercy. His mother, René, sits calmly next to him, gently stroking his hand. Recently Maurel underwent surgery to correct a particularly disfiguring outward curvature of his legs. Bowed legs can be common in young toddlers before bones straighten out and stiffen naturally, but Maurel’s condition was so bad that he was facing the rest of his life crippled.

This first appeared when Maurel was two years old. His mother, alarmed, took him to a local hospital for treatment where he was correctly diagnosed and scheduled for surgery. However, when it was discovered that René had a wealthy relative, the hospital increased the initially affordable medical bill to a sum exceeding $100,000. Unable to afford this exorbitant amount, René and her little boy had no choice but literally to hobble home.

Months went by, and René heard rumours that a hospital ship was coming to Benin offering free medical care. Despite her initial scepticism, René was convinced when she saw a flyer detailing information about Mercy Ships. She was excited to see a photo of a child whose bowed legs had been corrected by surgery.

Too good to be true?

Although Maurel was accepted for surgery onboard the Africa Mercy this spring, his uncle was not willing to allow him to have the operation; he thought the offer of medical treatment was too good to be true, fearing that the surgery would not be done correctly and that Maurel’s legs would be completely crippled as a result. Why would doctors work for free after all? Surely their lack of pay was due to incompetence.

But René has no regrets about taking Maurel to the big white ship for an operation. „Everything here is so good. I am really happy,“ she says. And Maurel is recovering nicely after a successful operation. Though it will be some time before the casts come off, he will be able to walk normally, and who knows become a successful businessman“.

Thanks to Mercy Ships, René’s dreams for Maurel are now within reach.

Training of West African doctors

While the Africa Mercy is in port, we partner with local hospitals to train West African doctors and surgeons in orthopaedic techniques. Visit a local hospital in Lomé, Togo, where you can wander from room to room to see and hear doctors being trained and orthopaedic patients receiving physiotherapy.