A Tragedy Redeemed

Yusif was 5 years old when his dreams and bright personality were threatened by complications from a snake bite.

Meet Yusif

Strong, smart, and respectful are the words Yusif’s mother, Mariama would use to describe her son. According to her, 12-year-old Yusif is a good boy who helps at home, enjoys playing football, and loves going to school. 

But at 5 years old his dreams and bright personality were threatened by complications from a snake bite.

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“Yusif was playing soccer; we didn’t know he was sitting close to the hole where a snake was,” Mariama shared. “He rested his arm on the hole. When the snake was coming out it bit him on his right hand.” 

All these years later, Mariama still remembers the aftermath of the snake bite clearly. Yusif was immediately given some traditional herbs, which they hoped would make him vomit the poison from the snake bite — but it didn’t work. 

Eventually, his family were able to take Yusif to a local hospital where he was given medication, but it became evident that the skin on his hand and arm was already dying. They took him to the few other hospitals available, but all the doctors they met with proposed the same solution: cutting off his arm.

A solution they refused to accept.

Over time, the dying skin on Yusif’s arm contracted and began to leave a bad odor. Too embarrassed to be around people, he resorted to staying at home and stopped playing soccer with his friends. He would often hide his arm under his shirt.

“Yusif felt shame and became very shy,” Mariama shared. 

Despite the life-altering impact of his condition, Mariama was grateful that some things didn’t change. Yusif remained a good and loving brother, taking care of his younger siblings and helping them with their studies and chores.

Mariama and her husband stayed committed to finding treatment for Yusif — and after years of searching, that hope became tangible.

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A woman saw Yusif on the road and, moved with compassion, she spoke to Mariama about the return of Mercy Ships to Sierra Leone, assuring her that Yusif could be treated for free. Once they arrived on the hospital ship, the burden that had long weighed on Mariama and her family began to lighten, and her patience rewarded as Yusif was given an appointment for surgery on board. 

The long-term implications of living with such a contracture for Yusif were exhaustive — academically, socially, economically, and psychologically. In every way, surgery for Yusif was life-transforming.  

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After his successful surgery on board the Global Mercy, Yusif was excited to show off his ‘new arm’ to his mother, saying, “Mama, look at my arm, let’s dance!” 

“Yusif’s life will change because he will no longer have shame anymore,” Mariama cheered. “He will not hide his arm; he will be happy.”

Although recovery was hard work, Yusif remembers his time on board fondly — and looks eagerly ahead to the future. 

“I was treated well and taken care of. I had time to play, watch movies, and make new friends,” Yusif shared. “I feel good now. I was not able to do anything before with my hand, but now I can do everything: run errands, play soccer, and go to school without feeling ashamed!”