Saturday, 28 February 2015


For those of you who have already heard some of the story of Yousef, let me update you on this incredible little boy. But first, for those of you who have yet to hear his story, let me fill you in:

Yousef is a 5 year old boy who lives in a village several kilometres away from here. He came to the hospital emaciated, severely malnourished, with signs of tuberculosis of the spine. He weighed 6kg and has never walked. He was frequently found to be bundled up in a nest of coats and blankets, supporting his upper body, while his legs laid limply on the bed, his head perpetually covered by an old dirty white towel. He looked like a bag of bones, listless and disinterested in everything around him. That was of course, unless you took the old towel away from his head; that always brought around a reaction! Having started treating his malnutrition and giving him several blood transfusions, he began his treatment for TB. Within a week a huge change had taken place, Yousef had put on 1 kg of weight, a change that was evident as soon as you looked at him.

A kilo heavier, its time to start playing
Having got past the critical stage of illness, it was now time to try and reclaim some of his childhood. And so, with a little red plastic ball in hand, I set to trying to play with him. The first few attempts of rolling the ball to him, tickling him with it was met with an apathetic stare and I began to wonder if it was really worth continuing, conscious of the curious stares of the Chadians watching me. However, I decided to give him a bit longer and eventually a long skinny arm emerged to push the ball away. That was all the encouragement I needed. I kept rolling the ball and then risked throwing it at him (gently of course, there was no evidence to suggest he would defend himself against a flying object coming at his face!). This provoked a giggle! It was an incredible sound to hear! Yousef then tried to get the ball himself to hand back to me, and eventually he even pushed himself up into a sitting position to reach the ball and to be able to put more power behind, what had now become throws. This was the first time I had seen him reposition himself at will, let alone hear him laugh!

My next activity for him, again was met with trepidation and downright terror. Following a trip to a local market, I had brought with me a child’s blue plastic chair. As I and Mariam lifted him into it, his initial shock was shortly replaced with screaming terror as he kept pointing to the mat and his bundle of coats. Mariam explained to me that he was scared of falling and it struck me that this was probably the first time in his life that he had sat on his own in a chair. Several attempts of distracting him were employed to try and gain his confidence in the chair but the last attempt of singing to him I think just brought about enough confusion to divert him!

Casually leaning on his frame, showing off his
standing skills
Since this day, Yousef has continued to improve putting weight on daily, interacting and chatting. One day, after a long and fruitless morning with Yousef and his Grandmother in town searching for a child sized wheelchair for him to help with his future mobility, I was feeling despondent. But on the journey back to the hospital, I felt some insistent tapping on my shoulder, to turn around to see Yousef standing on his Grandmother’s lap!

This all happened about 3 weeks ago and he now has a walking frame with which he can stand for several minutes at a time. I was bowled over 2 weeks ago, when at the start of the day, I walked onto the ward to see him cruising up and down the length of the bed! My clapping and exclamations of joy were met by a rather disinterested stare from Yousef, but that was broken down into squeals of delight as we then had a tickling fight.

Up until this point, I had not quite let myself believe that Yousef would one day walk again. It just seemed too fantastical, having seen where he had come from. But, as always, Yousef had yet another surprise up his sleeve and last week, each day he was found to be talking little walks around the ward with his grandmother and frame!

Having made such a remarkable recovery from such a critical state, and surpassed all our expectation, Yousef has now gone to stay with relatives nearby as he continues his treatment with regular check-ups with us.

The last thing I did with Yousef before he was discharged from hospital? Play a (very tame) game of football!

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