For most of nine-year-old Sema’s childhood, his dreams — including his hope of one day becoming a pilot —have felt compromised by the sharp curves of his legs. This orthopedic condition, commonly called “bowed legs,” often begins at a young age as the result of malnutrition. In Sema’s case, it began when he was just a toddler.
Sema has been raised by his grandmother, Aminata, who took him and his three older siblings in when his mother died just days after he was born. When they first noticed Sema’s legs bending, Aminata tried to tell herself he’d grow out of it on his own. “Some kids start walking with their legs far apart… we thought it would get better over time,” she said. But once Sema turned four, the family had to accept that this was their reality.
Aminata, who sells spices and peppers at the local market, has had difficulty providing for the ten people living in her home, so the thought of paying for medical care for Sema was out of the question.
“I didn’t even want to take him to the doctor to get looked at — I knew they would only tell me a price that was too big,” she said. “There was no way we could pay anything. It made me so sad. When you have children and grandchildren, you would do anything for them… but I couldn’t do a thing for him; I had to put my heart to God.”
God answered Aminata’s patient prayers in the form of a hospital ship filled with volunteer crew from around the world. Sema came onboard the Africa Mercy for an orthopedic surgery, which would straighten his legs and help them to heal through regular post-op care and physical therapy sessions.
“When we went on the ship, there was only happiness — we were treated like a queen and king,” Aminata said. “People were playing with him like they’d known him for a long time.”
After several months, Sema was able to return home. Due to the severity of his condition, his legs aren’t perfectly straight, but they hint that there’s a story to be told. With continued proper nutrition and his rehab exercises, there’s hope that Sema’s legs will continue to grow straighter as he grows up.
Sema’s grandmother believes his future looks brighter than ever saying, “Now, if he goes to school, anything is possible.”