A Future of Hope

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A decade ago, 12-year-old Romino received orthopedic surgery on board a floating hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. He was 3 at the time and had struggled with every step as his legs bowed out painfully.

Today, Tilos, as he is fondly called by those close to him, is a walking testimony of what hope and healing can do, which is only possible because of the heartfelt generosity of our friends and partners.

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Romino’s mother’s eyes light up when she speaks about her son, who now runs around and plays effortlessly. Looking back many years earlier, she recalls the first moment she noticed that something was wrong with her son’s legs.

“He didn’t have bowed legs when he was born. But his legs started to change when he was two and a half years old,” said his mother, Claudia. “When he started to walk, then we really noticed his legs changing gradually, and we wondered if he had bowed legs.”

Claudia continued observing him and noticed his legs becoming more bent as he grew. This worried her, so she sought help from a traditional doctor who recommended leg massages as a cure.

“The massage didn’t even last a month,” she shared. “We were doing the massage when [Mercy Ships] came and I decided that I would take him for surgery.”

According to his mother, Romino’s struggle weighed more than his physical limitations. The teasing from other children and the unwanted stares began to affect Claudia’s hope for his future.

However, once Romino received surgery, everyone who knew him was left in awe because they hadn’t believed his legs could ever be straightened.

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“People are surprised when they see him because no one believed that he would look like this,” Claudia said gleefully. “They thought he would have the same legs. However, he’s like this now and they even ask, ‘Is it you? Is this Tilos? Is this Tilos?’”

Nearly a decade later, Claudia remains delighted as she watches her son grow up experiencing a normal childhood like any other child in Madagascar.

“I really want him to be a doctor,” she said with a broad smile. “That’s what I’ve always wanted for him.”

Romino says he, too, wants to become a doctor: “Because I want to give people the same healing that I received.”

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Romino still has visible scars on his legs after the surgery, but those scars are a reminder of the love he was shown by a team of volunteer doctors and nurses — and a reminder of how different his life could have otherwise looked.