Thursday, June 21, 2012

Darius - and the sick shall be healed

Another wonderful transformation from the writers.

"Onboard the Africa Mercy, a nine-year-old boy named Darius sat curled up on his mother’s lap. With his head bent over, he hid his face from view. The dark sunglasses and the large bandages over his eyes hid a boy who was trying to cope with the circumstances life gave him.

Just five months ago, Darius’ had been a normal boy who could run around playing with his friends. Then one day, he came home from school feeling sick. And, before anyone understood what was happening, he was fighting for his life.

Darius had chickenpox, and his aunt decided to buy him some antibiotic to help him get better. Unfortunately, he had an adverse reaction to the antibiotic. This reaction is known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) – a life-threatening skin condition in which cell death causes the epidermis to detach from the dermis. It also affects the mucous membranes of the body.

Darius’s reaction was severe, and it did not take long before he became extremely weak. His mother, Josephine, took him to many doctors, but none of them understood what was happening to the boy because SJS is a rare syndrome.

As Darius’s condition worsened, layers of skin died and fell off from his lips, inner eyelids, and other parts of his body. When he started to vomit blood and mucous, Josephine decided she needed to go to a large hospital – anything to help her son get better. They traveled all the way to a hospital in the capital of Benin, where they waited in the ER for someone to help them.

“I looked down at my son. Flies were living in his wounds. He was covered with blood and dead tissue. Even the flies saw him as good as dead. I wondered how anyone so small could survive so much,” Josephine says as she fights back tears. Darius was brought to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Slowly, he started to regain strength but remained in the ICU for a while.

Darius’s eyes were swollen shut, so he could not see. One day, as he lay in bed in the ICU, he heard a fuse spark. He could smell the smoke as the fire started to build around his bed. He began yelling for help, but the nurses had been called somewhere else and did not hear him. Finally, Josephine heard his cries and ran in to see the place engulfed with flames. She picked up her son and ran to safety. Luckily, the boy received no injuries from the fire, and he was moved to the pediatric ward of the hospital, where Josephine could stay with him at all times. He spent a month in the pediatric ward before being released from the hospital.

The inner lining of his eyelids had fallen away, and as the raw edges of the eyelids started to heal, the upper and lower eyelids fused together. No longer able to open his eyes, Darius was blind to the world around him.

When Josephine heard about Mercy Ships, she brought Darius to one of the eye screenings. The Mercy Ships Eye Team quickly sent him to the ship to be screened for surgery. The young boy needed many surgeries to address his physical problem. But, just as important, the traumatized boy needed an emotional restoration.

At first, Darius kept to himself, keeping his head down. The horror of the past several months weighed heavily on him. Slowly, the crew onboard the Africa Mercy started to coax him out of hiding. His spirit started to lift as he saw how people cared for him and protected him from harm. Josephine explains, “He is receiving all this surgery and care, we are receiving food, and all of our needs are being taken care of. The nurses are so kind to us, and it is such a blessing after all of our struggles.”

The emotional transformation was remarkable. Darius could be found playing the piano – with the largest grin on his face. He also loved doing exercises and stretches.

Unfortunately, the damage to Darius’ vision was so extensive that it could not be reversed. But another type of help was provided.

Yvonne Harris, the OR Administrative Assistant onboard the Africa Mercy, united her church and family in making a long-term commitment to Darius. They are providing the funding for Darius to attend a school for the blind. In spite of his handicap, his future is now much brighter.

A grateful Josephine has a special message for the donors who have helped pay for Darius’s care and education: “You are taking from your own salaries for us! May the Lord bless your hands and your salary, and may you have good health and a long life. You have truly blessed us!”

And Darius, basking in the love and friendship he found on the Africa Mercy, sits in the ward and lifts his head high, singing a song he adapted to honor Mercy Ships:"

“They will go to the ends of the earth,
Mercy Ships, Mercy Ships.
They will never perish,
Mercy Ships Mercy Ships.”

 Darius – six months before he became sick.
Darius, after being released from the hospital – finally, almost healed
from the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.
 Darius takes comfort from nurse Nick while enjoying the fresh air on Deck 7.
 Darius sits on his bed, not wanting to venture far out of his comfort zone.
 Darius often hides on his bed, and the light bothers his eyes. The scarring all over his skin is from the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.
 Darius tries to hide. Not being able to see in such a new environment is difficult for him.
 Every day, Darius goes out onto Deck 7 for some fresh air. The light hurts his eyes, but he loves the fresh air. The crew managed to get Darius to come out of his shell and lifted his spirits.
 One of Darius’ favorite activities is stretching. He can be seen stretching up high –
with a large smile on his face.
 Darius also became good friends with photographer JJ Tiziou.
 JJ takes Darius up to play the crew piano. Darius has a strong love for music.
Darius leaves the ship. Even though the sun is bright for his eyes, he finds freedom in being able to walk out of the hospital.

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