Newfound Childhood

Seydina was born with a cleft palate that made it almost impossible to feed him as a baby. Thankfully, his mother, Bintou, worked hard to ensure her child got the nutrition he needed while searching for a way to heal him.

Meet Seydina

Access to surgery is more than a mantra that we share. We believe it’s a basic human right.

If your child were born today with a cleft lip, you would likely find a doctor within a few days who could identify the condition. Then, within a few weeks at most, surgery would be scheduled.

If that child later developed cataracts that blinded them, your first response would be to go to the optometrist to see what your next steps would be.

These were never even options for Seydina’s family.

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Seydina was born with a cleft palate that made it almost impossible to feed him as a baby. Thankfully, his mother, Bintou, worked hard to ensure her child got the nutrition he needed while searching for a way to heal him. 

“I took him to different local hospitals, but they didn’t treat him,” she said. “They said he should have surgery, but not immediately. I came back home and waited.” 

That wait lasted eight years. In that time, another condition began to make itself known. Seydina’s grandfather had been one of four siblings struck with cataracts when they were children. Two generations later, the family burden returned as Seydina’s eyes began to cloud over. 

Seydina’s conditions kept him from enjoying the simple things of childhood. At school, his classmates mocked him and even pushed him around, making a game out of the fact that he couldn’t see them clearly.

Eventually, Seydina was forced to return home, kept from his studies, and limited his future possibilities. 

The restricted access to medical care, specifically safe surgical care, makes finding healing for those hurting immensely difficult. Even those who might be able to afford the steep cost of surgical care are hesitant to trust the limited surgeons in their countries. 

“Surgery scares me more than anything else,” Seydina’s grandfather Alioune admitted. “A successful surgery — we rarely see it in our countries. That’s why, when it comes to surgery, parents think it’s all over. If that person returns home, it will be a big surprise.”

So, when an opportunity for safe, free surgery arrived in their country, it seemed like the chance of a lifetime. 

The Global Mercy was docked a mere 10 miles away from their home, and soon Seydina and his mother were aboard, taking the first steps toward a life healed and a future restored. 

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After two successful surgeries and a recovery period, Seydina returned home to his family with newfound sight and speech. 

“He eats everything you give him,” a relieved Bintou said about her son, whom she described as “a joyful child” now. “I’ve noticed lots of changes after his surgery.”

Today, Seydina is ready to return to the classroom, eager to satisfy his love for learning and embrace his childhood, which was almost stolen away. 

“Since he came home, I’ve stopped worrying,” Alioune said. I wish him a peaceful and successful life.”