We love happy endings. We love to see lives changed. To see hope restored in people who have lost hope is one of our greatest joys. "Bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor" is more than just the mission statement of Mercy Ships, but it is at the very core of why we are here. It is the message that Jesus himself walked out in the flesh. He came to serve those neglected and forgotten by society- the throw aways, those hidden from sight, or those others wished were hidden from sight.
And while on a good portion of our days we do see those happy endings, it is not guaranteed.
Not everyone qualifies for surgery. Some have conditions that we are unable to treat. The bedspace is limited. Our scope of practice is limited. Some tumors are malignant. We won't get through all the names on the waiting list - each one representing a life, a family, a community, desperate for help. And even those that do make it to the ship, into surgery, and through treatment with the Western doctors and nurses, it's still not foolproof. They don't always end up with the results we would like to see... :(
When Osman (age 9) came to the ship, he was suffering from a severe infection on his right leg after falling out of a tree. He had been to a local healer where they put strips of fabric soaked in boiling water as a source of treatment for the infection. This resulted in third degree burns that contracted his knee and constant infections occurring.
He came with eyes full of hope at what the future might hold after his surgery on the Africa Mercy.
The first two trips to the OR were to do dressing changes and try to rid his leg of infection so that eventually the skin graft could take. Because of the severity of the infection anesthesia was required for this process. The third trip to the OR was to release the contracture and place a skin graft from his opposite thigh onto the right knee. During a checkup the next day, blood was pooling under his right knee and Osman stated he was feeling dizzy. He was taken to the OR right away where it was found that the infection had eroded all the way down to his artery, resulting in an arterial bleed. He required an immediate arterial graft.
Over the course of the next four days, it was evident that the graft was failing and his leg was now dying. His fifth trip to the OR was a result of a critical decision: lose his life, or amputate above the knee.
So Osman's infected leg was removed...
Did we do more harm than good?
Did we fail him?
Did God fail him?
Where is God in this?
Osman tells us he is happy to be rid of his leg. "It was always paining me. Now I am free from that pain and I can run and play." He is learning how to move on crutches and will soon be able to move faster than us. His smile is bigger than ever. His hope has not vanished. Its just different than what we all imagined...
2 weeks ago I was at the HOPE Center where he is currently staying and he greeted me with his standard smile. In no time a ball appeared and before I could say anything Osman and I were playing football. Originally I tried to be nice and "let him win", but I soon discovered that I really need to get my act together if I want to compete with him. :)
Here is a short video of us playing: