For a barely four-feet-tall woman named Claire, social rejection was a daily reality. The focus of this negative attention was an enormous goiter hanging conspicuously from her neck like a sack of oranges.
In the chaos of the street market in Pointe Noire, Congo, Claire just wanted to shop unnoticed. But she recoiled as insults were hurled at her, and people stopped to stare. As a crowd gathered around her, someone declared that she was a witch. Another yelled that she ate human flesh. She quickly turned away in shame, tried to cover the softball-sized bulges of the goiter, and pushed past the crowd to escape.
No money for surgery
With no money for surgery, she felt hopeless. The only way to avoid the ridicule was to become a recluse.
Emotional pain was certainly no stranger to Claire. Eight of her twelve children had died of malaria and other illnesses; only four had reached adulthood. As the goiter grew and the pain increased, her only surviving daughter, Olga, had to take care of her beloved mother, as well as three children of her own.
Realizing she could be healed
Last summer, a local pastor stopped near Olga’s home. The pastor showed Claire “before” and “after” pictures of another person with a goiter who’d had a free surgery onboard the Africa Mercy. She was shocked to see someone else with the same huge mass bulging from their neck. And she realized that maybe she could be healed! She became giddy with excitement, laughed out loud, and jumped up and down with joy.
Claire and Olga attended Patient Selection Day for Mercy Ships with over 7,000 other people from all over Congo and some neighboring countries.
Finally, it was Claire’s turn to be examined. She was thrilled when she received an appointment for a free surgery. It couldn’t come soon enough for the 73-year-old who had carried this heavy load for twenty-eight years.
The surgery took several hours due to the size and complexity of the abnormal growth. Olga wept when asked how she felt about seeing her mother after surgery. She could barely even remember what her mother had looked like before the large mass had started to grow.
Now, Claire will be able to walk down the street and shop in the local market without the fear of being mocked. “Before surgery, I was sick and very sad. But, now, since having the operation, I feel alive!”