Saturday, May 7, 2011

Emmanuel Konteh

Five-year-old Emmanuel loves football, Ninja turtles, playing games with his buddies and all the other things little boys like to do. He is also a member of the children's choir at his church. "He's a boy who likes to sing," said his father, Daniel, with obvious pride.

Three years ago, Emmanuel's face suddenly swelled. He was taken to Children's Hospital, but after three weeks they still had no idea what his problem was. The doctor prescribed several kinds of medicine, but Daniel had no money to pay for them.

Emmanuel's pre-op photo of the neck growth

One day, Daniel heard that Mercy Ships was on its way to Sierra Leone. He decided to do everything he could to take his son to the medical screening. When they arrived, they sat on bench in front of the containers on the dock, waiting patiently for Emmanuel's turn to be screened. The little boy's beautiful face was marred by the growth on his left cheek that extended down to his neck. But when he smiled, his dimpled cheeks glowed and his big brown eyes sparkled.

Their patience was rewarded when Emmanuel received the coveted appointment card for a surgery.

When the anxiously awaited day arrived, Emmanuel was admitted to the onboard hospital. Even though he was scared, he was very brave as he was wheeled into the operating room. His father was also nervious. He waited in tears outside the operating room's door, with a nurse holding his hand. "I have never experienced anything like that," he confessed. "I prayed all night. I thought my son would never come out of the surgery."

But Emmanuel did come out - with a bandage on his head and a smile on his face. Daniel heaved a sigh of relief.

Both father and son were delighted with the results of the surgery. "There will be no more taunting now," Daniel said. Emmanuel's friends would no longer be able to laugh at him because of the growth. The little boy could start school with all the confidence a five-year-old should have.

In a few days, the dressing was removed and replaced by thin adhesive strips. "I'm glad they took off the bandage," said Emmanuel. But he wanted to stay on the ship because he was enjoying all the attention from the nurses.

Nurses in the ward taught Emmanuel to wink. He calls it his little trick.

But when Emmanuel was discharged, he left with a brilliant smile. "I thank God to have the operation!" said Emmanuel with an impish grin. "Now, I can play ball!"

Story by Elaine B. Winn

Edited by Nancy Predaina

Photos by Liz Cantu and Tom Bradley

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