A Chance to be a Normal Boy.

11 May 2014

The nurses on the Africa Mercy would not be surprised to see eight-year-old Jordis’ photograph next to the word boy in the dictionary. Right now, if you were to walk into B-ward, you would most likely find Jordis and his best buddy, Chadrac, entertaining the patients and nurses with an improv dance party to the tune of Reel 2 Real’s “I Like to Move It” – to the accompaniment of balloons bouncing, giggles bursting forth, and the two boys hopping around, delighted with the attention. 
Months ago, Screening Coordinator Mirjam Plomp’s (NLD) and her team traveled over 600 kilometers from the Africa Mercy to find patients who might otherwise have never found treatment for their various ailments. At upcountry screening in Oyo, Republic of Congo, she met Jordis and his mother, Viviane. 
Jordis and his mother wait in the screening line for consultation
At first glance, Jordis seemed like a normal good-hearted, overly-energetic kid who constantly gets himself into some form of trouble. But, if you let your eyes fall to his feet, you understood why this healthy boy called deck 3 of the Africa Mercy his home for several weeks. 
Jordis had spent his entire life wanting to do all of the crazy things young boys do, but was unable to do them. Fortunately, he was blessed with a loving mother named Viviane. She desperately wanted healing for her son. She wanted to see him climb trees. She was tired of the sadness she felt as she watched him standing at the base of a tree and watching his friends scurry into the branches. She was tired of seeing the hunger in her son’s eyes as he watched the endless soccer games he could not join. She yearned to see his eyes light up as he raced with his friends or scored the winning goal in a soccer match. So, she made sure they arrived at the Oyo screening hours before it began, and she made her rambunctious son wait in line with her in the pouring rain. 
Mirjam recalls, “Jordis and his mom had been waiting in line for a couple of hours by the time we arrived. When it was his turn, Jordis walked up to me, and I instantly noticed his massive left foot. It was a very large case of gigantism, a deformity from birth.” Mirjam knew it was something that Mercy Ships could treat, so she handed an appointment card to Jordis and his ecstatic mother and told them when to come to the ship in Pointe Noire. 
All it took was a free 45-minute procedure onboard a hospital ship to give the gift of soccer, trees, heart-pounding races, intricate pranks, and goofy dances . . . a gift Jordis had been waiting for his entire life. 
A few weeks after his surgery, Jordis returned for a physical therapy appointment. “The way my foot used to be, I was not able to run or play soccer. But since you fixed my foot, I can do whatever I want to do,” he said as he showed off his soccer skills for the camera. 
Viviane contentedly watched her son be a “ham” for the crew. She knew he had waited so long for this – a chance to be a normal boy.  Now, it was Jordis’ time to shine.  And his mother smiled.

Written by Grace Antonini
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photographs by Michelle Murrey, Josh Callow and Deb Louden

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