Young Daouda was only 4 years old when a tumor began forming on his upper jaw. What started as a small lump eventually developed into a massive growth filling his mouth, making eating and talking difficult.
“There isn’t a hospital in Dakar I haven’t been to, to try to get this treatment,” his father, Hamady, shared. For eight years, Hamady searched for help for Daouda, spending nearly all of their income to follow various leads, which always ended with the same message: “We can’t help him.”
Eventually, Daouda’s condition became too painful, and he was forced to drop out of school. Without surgery to remove the tumor, Hamady feared for his son’s future. But soon, that fear transformed into hope.
A friend shared the news that a hospital ship was coming to Senegal, one filled with volunteers offering free surgery. He knew bringing his son to the ship would be a challenge, particularly as it meant leaving during the rainy season, a crucial time for his farm: “I am the breadwinner of the family. If I am not there, it is dangerous.”
However, encouraged by pictures of successful surgeries on Mercy Ships’ Facebook page, Hamady dropped everything.
“When I am not there, my heart is not calm,” he said. “But when I see this disease, it is not fine either. I must take him.”
Despite fearing another rejection, Hamady brought Daouda to meet with a screening team who sent them to the Africa Mercy for surgery to remove the tumor. After a successful surgery, nurses brought Hamady to see his son. When he entered the room, visible relief spread over Hamady’s face. His search for help for his son had finally ended.
Hospital director Keren Fuhrmeister was there to see the reunion, saying, “I’ve never seen body language like it — the relief for a father who has never been able to get healing for his son. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look he had. He went and sat by his son and held his hand, and his son was just waking up, and he just sat there with pure relief.” She concluded, “He just sat there, going, ‘I think maybe we’ve finally done it’.”
A week after surgery, Daouda was healing well and was finally discharged from the hospital. Daouda said before leaving the ship, “I thank you for what you have done for me.”
Hamady is hopeful that Daouda can finally resume his studies without fear of pain and scorn.
“I often encourage him,” he shared. “I tell him, ‘Go ahead. It is never too late. You will catch up. Because you are intelligent, you will catch up.'”
Though the road to healing was a winding one for Daouda, Hamady hopes that the fruits of their labor will resonate on a national scale.
“Everybody on that road from my village to Dakar knows my child, and everybody is going to see this and know that he was cured,” Hamady shared. “Thank you. I will never forget this. Even if I die today, I will rest in peace. All of my children are in good health.”