During the first week, I only knew 8 year old Etienne from a distance. He would greet me, “Hey Doc, Hey Doc” from the pediatric ward window next to his bed. He has a million dollar smile and a positive attitude that I later learned was in contrast to his circumstances (a lesson for all of us).
During the second week I walked over to his ward to see and get to know this kid with the infectious personality. It turns out that he was healing from burns that resulted in the loss of the right leg below the knee and most of his left foot. I later learned that this occurred under suspicious circumstances and likely an uncle had punished him by holding him in the fire (We have two other boys from the same village with burnt feet delivered as a punishment but fortunately they will respond to skin grafts and will not lose their limbs). The mission has a new child protection team that is getting involved.
Etienne's mother stays at the hospital caring for him and trying to reduce her overwhelming hospital bill for the multiple surgeries and lengthy rehab. She has paid off 80,000 CFA but 240,000 CFA ($400 US) remains that she cannot imagine covering. To make matters worse Etienne will need 6 months of rehab and a prosthetic right leg and prosthetic right foot. Fortunately, the sister mission hospital, Mbingo, a former Leprosy center, does this type of work but housing expenses, hospital expenses and prosthetics will be an additional $1200 US. These are remarkably low mission hospital prices that barely support the function of the hospital as they try to help as many sick people as possible.
Etienne is one of these special people we meet every trip who we believe, if given the chance, will have a special impact on the world around him. He is everyone's favorite patient and has a heart of forgiveness and joy despite his physical problems and the events that resulted in his injury. We have learned to be more forgiving and grateful because of Etienne's example.