A True Mercy Ships Transformation: Esther’s Story

Six-year-old Esther was full of charisma—a bright, bubbly little girl who saw the joy in every situation. But Esther suffered with a windswept leg caused by rickets—a brittle bone condition that causes leg deformities. When children don’t get the nutrients they need at key stages of their growth, they can develop rickets. When Esther was only 18 months old, her leg was already growing the wrong way.

Her mother, Mabel, was a single parent who tried to find a way to fix her vibrant little girl’s twisted leg. She was told that nothing could be done and that it was too late.

As Esther grew up, she was treated differently due to her windswept leg, and her mother sadly watched as her little girl slowly became more reclusive. Esther’s true personality only emerged at home in the safe presence of those she knew wouldn’t tease her. The rest of her days were spent watching from the sidelines as her confidence faded. After she started school and the teasing increased, her energy and love for life diminished. The Esther that Mabel knew was disappearing before her eyes—scared of the unknown and unable to continue school.

“She started to become distant and drew back from things that she would normally have jumped at. This made me sad because it’s not a true example of my Esther,” recalls Mabel. “She would sink back into herself and not join in activities… that’s not my girl. My girl is bright, fun, and loving.”

Always on the move, uprooting their lives time and again, Mabel searched the country for a solution to her daughter’s condition. After hearing about Mercy Ships through a friend, they made yet another journey to the port city—but this time it wasn’t a dead end. Esther was accepted for orthopedic surgery to correct her windswept leg.

Time onboard the Africa Mercy saw Esther’s personality emerge like a butterfly from a cocoon. It didn’t take long for the crew to fall in love with her true personality. She thrived in the comfort of a loving and accepting environment, as evidenced by her endless giggles and smiles.

Esther’s pink cast and brightly colored hair bands lit up the rehabilitation tent during weekly physical therapy sessions. As her bones grew stronger, so did her confidence, revealing the bold, beautiful daughter Mabel always knew was there.

“Now, I have high hopes for her,” said Mabel. “She will be able to go back to school to get an education for a bright future!”

Mabel is delighted with her daughter’s physical and emotional transformation. “We’ll all be dancing when we get home,” she said. “And now, my Esther will finally be able to join in like she’s always wanted to!”

Story by Georgia Ainsworth

Edited by Karis Johnson and Nancy Predaina

Photos by Saul Loubassa Bighonda and Shawn Thompson