To the delight of a mother’s heart, her baby boy is born and placed on her chest. Though, to the devastation of her dreams, her son is born with a debilitating condition. Unless medical intervention is administered in his early development, he will never walk, jump or run. But such expert support is oceans away. Babies born in places like rural third world areas, or in countries torn apart by civil war and international oversight, the priority and accessibility of necessary aid to resolve or rehabilitate physical disabilities at birth or experienced at any point in life are all but a faraway hope. However, organizations like Children’s Medical Missions West seeks to offer much needed hope and healing for families affected by medical difficulties in remote and impoverished regions. Their work is remarkable and miraculous.
Zabu was born in West Africa a year and a half ago and exhibited severe hip and spinal mal-formation. His family was told that if he did not undergo specialized medical intervention as soon as possible, he would never develop the ability to use his legs. The best he could hope for was life in a wheelchair, especially since advanced medical care did not exist anywhere near where he lived. However, Children’s Medical Missions West exists to serve children, like Zabu, and their families with identifying, initiating and arranging life-changing support. For Zabu, it began with locating where his treatment would best occur. A specialized children’s hospital located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania seemed to be the preferred choice to attend to his specific needs. Once the medical team was assembled, the next step was to find an appropriate foster family to care for Zabu during his stay away from his family while in the U.S. Parallel to CMMW’s efforts, a husband and wife team were in prayer about their pursuit to provide foster or adoptive care for a child in need. They had completed training at a suburban Philadelphia foster care agency and were waiting for the Lord to show them where to go from there. Through the grapevine of friends and colleagues of the foster care agency and CMMW, the couple was notified about Zabu’s anticipated journey to the states and desperate need for a suitable home; otherwise, the trip would be put on hold and, in turn, sadly affect his prognosis. The couple considered the task that was before them – caring daily for a special needs child, frequent doctor appointments and painful medical procedures, not to mention the cultural differences and emotional challenges of a small boy being separated from his family half way around the world. Yet, they felt willing to take the leap of faith and welcome Zabu into their home and help him achieve developmental progress to return home to his family with more abilities than disabilities.
Zabu arrived in America six months ago, escorted by an adult companion and literally handed over at the airport to his foster mom. The courage of all involved in this situation is astounding. That courage is helping to make headway with Zabu’s condition. He has not yet undergone any operations, as less invasive treatments and therapies are being pursued at this point. His foster parents report that Zabu is adjusting well and showing signs of age appropriate development on many levels. He is not walking or even crawling yet; but with ongoing special attention and holistic intervention, there is hope. Zabu wiggles himself around and is good spirited. It is uncertain how long he will remain in the states. He may complete a specified goal, return to Africa to rejoin his family and daily life and later make the trip to America again to update treatment or follow up aid.
Without Children’s Medical Missions West efforts, stories like Zabu’s would be told with a very different narrative. Zabu may never leap in real life but he is trying; he is being given the chance to try. Trying is its own special effort; being given the chance to try is an even extra special effort. Zabu’s parents and family, his foster family and medical team are all part of a phenomenal opportunity to experience what it means to be brave, to hope and work hard to keep hoping. Such virtues are the impetus to make things happen – like bringing necessary aid to those who need it all around the world, or bring those in need of aid to places in the world that can best offer it. Either way, having a physical disability in a faraway land does not have to mean a life of deficit. It can, in fact, increase the capacity of all of us to better understand how we are more connected than we may initially comprehend.