Abel had a normal childhood until a problem arose following an injection. His parents noticed he was having difficulty learning to crawl. His muscles had stopped growing, but his bones had not. As a result, his legs were not growing correctly because there was so little musculature to direct them. They began to bend backward at the knee, forcing his upper thighs out behind him. His parents took him to three different doctors, but none of them knew what to do for him.
Despite this condition, the resolute Abel learned to lean forward, correcting his balance enough to walk, climb and do just about anything any other active boy can do. He even became the goalkeeper on his football (soccer) team. The only thing he couldn't do was ride a bicycle, since it requires sitting straight on the seat and pushing down on the pedals.
Abel's physical deformity made him the target of ridicule from other children. But he remained optimistic thanks to his joyful spirit and his wonderfully supportive parents.
One day, there was an announcement on the radio that a Mercy Ship was coming to Togo, offering free surgeries. Abel's hopeful father took his son to an orthopedic screening in Lomè.
Before surgery, Abel climbs into the Mercy Ships vehicle on hisway to the Hospitality Centre.
After two surgeries, a happy Abel and his father relax in the ward.
Abel enjoys sharing his picture books with roommates at the Hospitality Centre
A happy Abel tests his straight legs and crutches at the Hospitality Centre
A smiling Abel gets used to walking on straight legs with crutches on the dock beside the ship, as his dad looks on in the background
With the World Cup approaching, Abel is intensely interested in watching his favorite sport … and especially his favorite player, Chelsea's Didier Drogba. After so many weeks of recuperation, he is eagerly looking forward to getting out on the field himself.
But Abel's long-term goal is not to become a famous soccer player. He is determined to become a surgeon, like those on the Mercy Ship, “ because of the things they have done for me ,” he said.
Abel and his dad happily show off the casts in post op. after their removal.
Story by Elaine B. WinnEdited by Nancy PredainaPhotos by Debra Bell and Liz Cantu