“I was trying to save my brother.”
This is the reason 31-year-old Coumba gives for the pain she has lived with for over 27 years.
“My little brother was playing by the [cooking] fire, got too close, and started to burn,” Coumba remembers. “I was 4 years old, and I went to save him.”
Coumba’s brother was trapped, and when the little girl tried to help, she fell, burning her arm and side. The painful burns eventually healed, but without surgery, they became tightened scars that left her arm fused and her hand badly twisted.
Despite the pain and limitations her scars presented, Coumba refused to let them define her. The brave 4-year-old grew into a strong woman, wife, and mother.
After hearing about the possibility for healing, that bravery and strength guided her to Mercy Ships. Coumba had been to hospitals around her country before but had continually received the same disappointing news: there was nothing they could do. When she boarded the Africa Mercy, it was with renewed hope.
“I see this is helping so many people,” she shared. “Before the ship, I spent more than one year in a hospital, and I never saw any change. When I came here for the first time, I saw people going onto the ship and coming back, having changed from their surgeries. I am happy for them. This kind of help is a good thing.”
Because of how long Coumba had lived with her scars, the volunteer doctors and nurses knew that her road to recovery would be long. But the persistent woman’s strength would prevail. After surgery to help repair the burn scars, Coumba began physical therapy to learn how to use her hand again.
“By the time a year’s up,” Dr. Jody Kissel, volunteer therapist, shared. “I have every bit of hope that she will be able to raise her arm up over her head, hang up laundry, care for her child, and do those things she said she was hoping to do.”
For Coumba, chief among her aspirations was growing her own vegetables on the farm where she lives.
“I can do everything except the work needed on a vegetable farm,” Coumba said. “In Senegal, ladies tend to have a small space where they can have vegetables they use to cook their own food, but I cannot because you must go and fetch water from the well, and I cannot do that. After I get the surgery, I want to have my own vegetable farm.”
Though Coumba’s journey to healing continues, she and the doctors are confident that soon she will be tending to her garden with the same strength and persistence that has carried her all this time.