Reclaiming Life

At just 21 years old, Papa has already established himself as an exceptional mechanic, pursuing his dream of fixing motorbikes in his community. But when a large tumor began growing from the left side of his face, his dreams for the future became shadowed by fear.

Meet Papa

At just 21 years old, Papa has already established himself as an exceptional mechanic, pursuing his dream of fixing motorbikes in his community. But when a large tumor began growing from the left side of his face, his dreams for the future became shadowed by fear.

“This work has a lot of physical demands,” Papa shared. “It is even harder to do with a tumor in the way.”

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When Papa first went to the hospital with a slight lump as a teenager, he was told it was a toothache that would heal. But each year, it grew, eventually becoming the size of a grapefruit. It pressed on the nerves in his face and partly blocked his sight.

“He was going through a tough situation as a young man who is supposed to enjoy his life,” said his father, Toure. In addition to the constant pain, Toure says the tumor took a toll on Papa’s self-esteem. “Seeing your childhood friends in good health while you’re disabled is very embarrassing.”

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Knowing that a life burdened with the tumor meant one of uncertainty, Papa decided to invest in a possible surgery at a local hospital. It took the help of his friends and neighbors to afford the operation, and just as it was about to begin, there was a power outage.

As the lights flickered back to life, newfound fear and distrust weighed heavily on Papa. With no guarantee of power, and no way to ensure the machines could continue their work, Papa reluctantly decided the risk was too high. 

Once again, Papa believed he would be forced to live his life burdened by his condition. Then he heard some news: a hospital ship filled with volunteers offering free, safe surgery was set to visit his country.

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His hopes tentatively renewed, he decided to learn more. After meeting with a screening team, Papa was approved for surgery, his excitement damped slightly by the memories of his previous hospital experience. But the desire for healing overcame his fear: “I was afraid, but I trusted God.”

Not long after, Papa was on board the Global Mercy, his burden of so many years removed at last. As the haze of anesthesia lifted after his surgery, Papa didn’t have to touch his face to know the tumor was gone.

“When I woke up, I felt the tumor had gone,” he shared. “I knew because before, the tumor blocked my sight.” For the first time in years, Papa’s sight was no longer obstructed by his condition.

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Papa spent weeks recovering in the hospital wards, finding connection with fellow patients and crewmembers through activities like arts and crafts.

“I even made bracelets by myself; I learned it while in hospital… the nurses taught me how to do it,” Papa remembered.

Paul Kangethe, a volunteer ward nurse from the United States, cared for Papa post-surgery. He observed that as Papa’s physical healing was underway, the transformation became more than just skin-deep.

“The first day after surgery, he was quiet, staying in bed, not interacting, not talking much,” Paul shared. “But as the days progressed, he was much more interactive and active… It seemed he was much more comfortable talking and sharing.”

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With the support of the volunteer crew, healing from surgery only took a few weeks, and soon Papa was released to return home to his friends and family. 

Once he was back home, his friends were amazed by the transformation they saw. One friend shared his awe, saying, “What you’ve done isn’t just for Papa but also for the community. His tumor is gone now, and his health, dignity, and joy are restored. You did this for Papa and the entire city.”

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Now that Papa is healthy, new dreams have sparked where there was once fear. “I want to go back to work and spend time with my parents and siblings,” he shared. “I’m also young and would like to marry and have my own family!”