Friday, February 24, 2012

Abdul, the "spider boy" walks with me - video

This little man gave us last years lots and lots of fun and laughter. He was always in the centre of attention - first because of his deformity, then because of his great smile and attitude, and lately because he was walking WITHOUT crutches for the very first time in his life!

You can watch the video here. If you look closely you can see ME walking with him. The close up shot of me in my high heels and him barefoot making his first steps is very powerful - great camerawork Beau C!

"The villagers called Abdul the “devil child” because of his deformed, curling feet.  Each year this common condition, known as clubfoot, affects 220,000 babies born in developing countries.

Abdul was abandoned by his mother, but his father Simeon stood by his side. He knew that the baby’s condition was medical. It was not a case of witchcraft. He dared to believe that his son could get an education and have a bright future.
Abdul was known as the “devil child” due to his deformed feet. Every day Simeon walked in the intense heat from village to village selling firewood for money to live on. Abdul played with the neighborhood children who taunted him until he hid in the house, sobbing from the pain of rejection. When Abdul started attending school, he proved to be a very curious child and a quick learner. He enjoyed his father’s support of his education, as Simeon regularly helped Abdul with his studies.

Every Saturday, father and son washed clothes together.  Then, before dinner, they talked man-to-boy about the future. There was quite a close bond between them. His father smiled at these memories and said, “Abdul is a cool and wild boy.”

Simeon was determined to find medical treatment to correct his son’s clubfeet. They visited many doctors but never found anyone who could help them. Yet, Simeon had a strong faith in God and firmly believed that, one day, Abdul would be healed. As they searched for a solution, the obvious need for medical care developed a deep desire in Abdul’s heart to become a doctor to give hope to others who suffered.

One day, a radio jingle announced the arrival of Mercy Ships to assess people for surgery. Abdul and his father stood in line for an exhausting three days to be seen. It was worth every second when Abdul was accepted for treatment. “The joy I felt was so overwhelming that I lost my appetite to eat until I arrived at Mercy Ships,” he remembered with a flush of excitement.

At the HOPE Center, crew from around the world and patients with similar conditions embraced the father and son with kindness. Abdul and Simeon enjoyed the social interaction tremendously. It was a refreshing change for Abdul, who was so accustomed to rejection. At first, he cried a flood of tears after playing with the crew, for fear that they would never return, but soon he realized that they visited every day.

Abdul’s  father described him as a “cool and wild” boy. Here, Abdul starts to  relax in the HOPE Recovery Center.Abdul’s first Ponseti treatment involved the application of heavy plaster casts to his legs to correct the position of his curled feet. The thigh-high casts positioned his legs in 90-degree right angles. Abdul was required to stay in a permanent “squat” position for several months. But Abdul’s mischievous spirit emerged, and he cunningly mastered walking like a spider. Now, he could explore his new home and demonstrate his adventurous nature. He became the first one to scuttle over to greet visitors, join in creative activities with the other children and even climb the steps to go into the shower rooms.

Despite the playing and exploring, Abdul dreaded the cast changes. It was a lengthy procedure – but, in time, he formed endearing friendships with the physiotherapy team. His perseverance paid off. Finally, after many cast changes, Abdul was ready for the surgery to make his curled feet flat.

Then, suddenly, he was overcome by a fever. He lay motionless, drained, and limp. His father stayed at his bedside, soothing Abdul’s fears away by gently stroking his head. Fortunately, Abdul soon recovered. The first sign of the return of his sassy nature occurred when he received a puppet bear. The animated bear triggered his sunny smiles and laughter.

A few days after his successful surgery, he returned to the HOPE Center in straight, short leg casts which made walking easier. He joyfully hobbled around on crutches with the other boys who were receiving similar treatment on their legs. He was encouraged as they practiced walking together by playing competitive games.

Angel, a physiotherapy team member, made foot shields to keep Abdul’s feet in the correct position in his shoes. “The braces will help him in the future to walk correctly. I love that – it motivates me to make them,” said Angel. However, the foot shields brought to light another problem – Abdul did not have any shoes because he had never been able to wear them with his curled, twisted feet. This was the first time in his life he needed to buy shoes, and a delighted Abdul beamed, “I am happy because I can walk to school when I go home.”At the HOPE  Recovery Center Abdul tremendously enjoyed the social interaction of  playing with other children.Then something very unexpected happened. A Mercy Ships doctor offered to do some tests on Simeon. He had whispered since he was seven years old, after a long- term throat infection damaged his voice box. The doctor agreed to do surgery. Abdul was enormously excited about his surgery because he would now be the official person to look after his father in the hospital. As they waited to board the ship, he strutted up and down with a bounce in his step, announcing to anyone passing by that he was a “caregiver.”

Shortly after his father’s surgery, they were ready to return home. Physiotherapist Nick was overjoyed with the boy’s progress and said, “Abdul is very special. I’m very proud of him. His first few steps were like a newborn calf, but now he’s walking with confidence. His future will be worlds apart from what it would have been before treatment – he would have been begging on the streets. Now, he will work, contributing to society, which gives him a bright future.”

To mark the occasion, Abdul proudly wore his superhero Superman costume. Brimming with confidence for their future, his father waved goodbye and declared, “His faith has grown stronger and stronger as his legs healed. Now he’s ready to grow into a great man that we will love and respect!”
(by a ship writer)

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