Monday, June 28, 2010
Courage & Strength
She is a farmer and has 5 grown children. She looks stunning for her age. When you see Akou smile, these perfectly straight, glistening white teeth stare at you. You think: there is a story behind that smile.
A large mass has been growing on her right shoulder for 5 years. The growth began inching up her neck, and exuded immense pain. Akou didn’t know it at the time, but the tumor was slowly filling her lungs and eventually would kill her.
If Akou lived in a developed nation, she would have had the tumor removed at a very early stage. But because of the lack of health care resources, doctors in Togo suggested that she travel to Europe to have the tumor removed.
Europe? They might as well have given her a death sentence.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me that. I shook my head, and essentially gave up.” Akou said.
Three years later, Akou waited in line to see a doctor at Mercy Ships’ screening day in Togo. The African sun beat down on the hundreds of hopeful people waiting for medical attention. Akou was checked by several nurses and given an X-ray. It was determined that she was a candidate for surgery and was given a date to return to the ship for her tumor to be removed.
“I was so happy that day. More than small happiness…this was BIG happiness. I was in a hurry to get back home so the time would pass faster, and the day of surgery would be here!” Akou remembers.
Eventually surgery day arrived. Akou went in and Dr. Mark performed a marathon nine-hour operation. In order to remove the entire tumor, Dr. Mark had to cut the nerves running through it. Then, he meticulously stitched each nerve back together.
In recovery Akou had staples running down her neck and shoulder resembling a train track of battle wounds.
But the enemy was gone: All that was left was a beautifully sloped silhouette of her shoulders.
Akou’s struggle, however, was not over. God wanted to test her courage further. When she woke up after surgery she could not lift her arm.
It was explained to Akou that the surgeon had to sever the nerves running through the tumor in order to remove it all. It was a requirement to save her life. Akou understood, but needed time to process the situation. Her livelihood depended on being able to lift things.
Charge Nurse, Ali Chandra, explained, “The doctors are quite confident that over time, and with therapy, Akou will regain all movement in her arm. And every day, I can see she is improving emotionally and responding to therapy.”
Akou’s courage and strength were called upon, and she rose to the occasion. Healing began and eventually, it was time to look at her shoulder for the first time. Akou was handed a small mirror and she carefully cleaned it with her hospital gown, and then held it up.
In a matter of seconds that beaming smile returned to her face. She finally allowed herself to enjoy the hope and healing God brought her through Mercy Ships.
“When my hand gets better,” she exclaims, “I will be jumping up and down—hands raised in the air with celebration. The first thing I will do when I return home is go to church and thank God for what he has done for me. All the nurses who have took care of me—I will thank God for them.”