Teen girl with severely bowed legs which forced her to drop out of school after being heavily bullied gets life-changing corrective surgery
Valerie, 14, from Cotonou in Benin, West Africa, got a new lease of life after surgeons from the Charity Mercy Ships fixed her legs
The teenager can’t wait to continue her education after renewed confidence plans to return to class
After quitting school, Valerie had joined her uncle’s tailoring shop as an apprentice seamstress, to keep busy and earn extra income for her family.
The talented seamstress was sewing one day when a customer told her a hospital boat operated by Mercy Ships has docked at a port in the city.
Valerie became one of 76 children to receive free surgery during the boat’s 10-month stay in the West African coastal country
The charity uses hospital ships to deliver free health care services to less-developed parts of the world.
Valerie who spent her four-month post-surgery rehab learning how to read and write, said : said: ‘I was very happy. I told myself I no longer want to be a seamstress. I want to go back to school.
‘I was desperate to learn how to read. A friend on-board gave me a few alphabet pages for me to trace – and the next day I told her I needed more to read.
‘Not long after then, my legs were strong enough for me to go home. School will be great. People will say, “Is this the same girl? Her legs are straight”.’
Bow-leggedness is a deformity marked by outward bowing at the knee, which gives the limb the appearance of an archer’s bow.
The chief cause is rickets, but it can also be caused by skeletal problems, infections, and tumors. Valerie did not wish to disclose the cause of her condition.
During the teen’s knee operation, surgeons removed a wedge of bone from the outside of both her knees, causing her legs to bend inward.
After general anesthetic was administered, a five-inch incision was made down the front and outside of her knees.
Guide wires were drilled into the top of the shin bones from the outside of the knees, before a saw was run along those wires, removing most of the bone wedge.
The tops of Valerie’s shin bones were then lowered on the outside and attached with surgical screws, before her tissue was stitched back together.
The non-profit Mercy Ships operates the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, providing humanitarian aid for terminally-ill patients. The charity has operated in more than 57 developing nations and 18 developed nations around the world, with a current focus on African countries.