Reclaiming Life: Papa’s Story 

Papa has a photo of a motorcycle engine on the wall of his bedroom. At just 21 years old, he has already established himself as an exceptional mechanic, dedicating his days to mending and reviving motorbikes. “Fixing bikes has always been a passion for me since I was a child,” he says. 

When a large tumor began growing from the left side of his face, not only did it put his health in jeopardy, but he feared that it would dash his prospects as a professional mechanic. “This work has a lot of physical demands; it is harder to do with a tumor in the way,” he explained.  

This meant that for years, Papa grappled with a future that felt uncertain. 

The Ripple Effect of Illness: The Entire Community Aches 

The tumor was a non-cancerous growth originating from tissues in his jaw.  When he first went to the hospital with a slight lump as a teenager, Papa 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 for a child.” 

Papa’s family described him as ambitious. This ambition is rooted in a sense of responsibility for his family and community. He’s always prided himself on being able to help his parents and support his younger siblings. He runs a motorbike repair shop with a friend, where he provides essential services and trains young men who want to learn the trade. “I opened it and trained some apprentices. I even have colleagues who work elsewhere, I taught them.” 

With a tumor growing, Papa worried that the looming uncertainty of his health would impact his future and have a ripple effect on his family and friends. 

A few years ago, hope gleamed on the horizon for Papa as his family raised enough funds to afford surgery in a hospital. Just as the operation was about to begin, there was a power outage. As the lights flickered back to life, newfound fear and distrust weighed heavily on Papa. Afraid the power might falter again during such a critical moment, he reluctantly deferred the surgery. 

Renewed Hope 

“I heard about Mercy Ships from a friend, who is also a mechanic,” remembers Papa. In 2022, his friend read online that Mercy Ships’ new hospital vessel, the Global Mercy, would sail to Senegal to provide safe, free surgical care to people in need. 

Papa visited a nearby hospital where a Mercy Ships volunteer medical team was conducting screenings for patients.   

Memories of his previous experience lingered, leaving Papa grappling with conflicting emotions when he was approved for the surgery. But yearning for healing overcame the fear. “I was afraid, but I trusted God,” says Papa.  

Papa’s Healing Went Beyond the Physical 

As the haze of anesthesia gradually lifted after his surgery, Papa didn’t have to reach for his face to know the tumor was gone. 

“When I woke up, I didn’t touch it, but I felt the tumor had gone because before, the tumor blocked my sight.” For the first time in years, Papa’s vision was unobstructed.  

His surgery involved removing part of his jawbone where the tumor was growing. The volunteer surgeons then reconstructed his jaw using a metal plate.  

Papa spent weeks recovering in the hospital wards, finding connection with fellow patients and crewmembers through activities like 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. But as the days progressed, he was much more interactive and active… It seemed he was much more comfortable talking and sharing.”  

Papa’s friend expressed gratitude when he returned home, healthy and hopeful. “What you’ve done isn’t just for Papa, but also for the community. We were all worried about him. His tumor is gone now, and his health, dignity, and joy are restored. You did this for Papa and the entire city,” he celebrated. 

Years with the tumor had cast a shadow of uncertainty, making it difficult for Papa to imagine a future when health was a constant concern. He spoke of seemingly simple aspirations that once seemed distant: “I always wanted to get a driving license and an ID card. The tumor has prevented me from having those documents.”  

Now that he’s 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,” Papa shared. “I’m also young and would like to marry and have my own family.” 

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