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Americans for African Adoptions Inc. - Angel Update

HIS NAME IS SAH! - by Cheryl Carter-Shotts.
Source: The African Connection, January/February 1996.

Hopefully as you are reading this edition of "The African Connection" I am in Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa. While I went to Sierra Leone for adoption work, I am also hopeful of bringing back a little, 6 year old, non-orphan boy for surgery. I almost missed this little Sierra Leone angel, I only caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. It was last April and I was in my 7th week of struggling in Freetown (the capital city). The heat and humidity were about 100, both degrees and humidity, the rebels had advanced to within 25 miles of Freetown learned that the lovely guest house I was staying in had large military installations on several sides. One scary morning rumors were rampant that the rebels had invaded Freetown and were fighting on a hillside clearly seen from the verandah of the guest house. A British colonel who seemed to be "the" negotiator between the government and the rebels had already advised me of the beach hotel I needed to get to. "You can go home with the U.S. Marines stationed off shore," he said. I never knew if he was serious or not but I was not too keen on this being the day I would find out.

Shops had suddenly slammed their doors and parents rushed to schools to grab their children, hopefully to safety... but just as suddenly the rumors changed and it was all just that, rumors. Life returned to normal after lunch. My helper and I took off for downtown to work on what had to be done to bring 11 little Sierra Leone Angels (eight of them only two years old) to their new families in the U.S. and Canada and life continued on as normal, as normal as it could be, in a country at war.

Our taxi was driving down a crowded street when I caught a glimpse of a child. I spun around and saw a tiny little boy with horribly bent legs, very slowly walking down the street, holding a man's hand. I yelled to the taxi driver to stop, jumped out and ran back to the boy and the man. My helper came running after me, certain that something was seriously wrong. He later told me he thought I was sick and was anxiously looking for a toilet.

The little boy and the man probably thought I was a strange, crazy foreigner as I rushed up to them. I asked if the child was his son, and what had happened to him. I asked if we could drive them home and if I could meet "Mom". I asked for permission to take the child to the American Embassy "panel physician" (the doctor designated by the U.S. Embassy to do visa medical exams). Dr. Gordon-Harris said he had never seen anything like the boy's legs and he wanted a pediatrician, Dr. Effie Gooding, to examine him. Dr. Gooding had also never seen a problem like this but felt he had been well cared for and that he was not malnourished. While the child's house showed that his family had very little money, the little Angel was not one of Africa's starving children.

He just stared quietly at this stranger who had suddenly run into his life. He layed quietly while he was moved and twisted and turned for x-ray after x-ray. He obediently took off his clothes when this new friend said she wanted to take lots of pictures of him... naked. I photographed this beautiful little boy from every angle; his legs, his feet, his torso, arms up, arms down, with clothes and without clothes. I wanted American doctors to be able to get a good look at him.

His parents said he was okay until a few years ago when he didn't feel well and became feverish. He layed down to sleep and woke up crying that his legs hurt, "they quickly began to bend," they said. "Surely there was more to it," I thought.

An Indianapolis orthopedic surgeon has located a medical report about the same condition this child probably has. It's called "Windswept Deformity" and it has happened to other African Angels, much like this boy's parents described. The condition will get worse until he will probably not be able to walk any more. "He plays and even climbs fences now," his Dad had said but that will probably change unless he is treated – treatment absolutely not available in Sierra Leone.

Hopefully I will have Sah with me when I return from Freetown, if the U.S. Embassy will give him a visa. Hopefully Sah will be accepted at the Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota for badly needed help. When he is better (think positively), and healed from all the doctors will need to do to him, the plan is that Sah and I will again hold hands as I take him back to the parents who love him dearly, hopefully to a country that no longer knows of vicious rebels and civil war, and boy soldiers. Hopefully we will not help "Sah" to walk normally again, only to lose him to the war in a few years.

POST SCRIPT: (10/2001)

Surgery was successful and Sah's legs were completely straightened. Sah was returned to Freetown by a Sierra Leone government official who had traveled to the U.S. When taken back it was learned that while Sah was in the U.S. for a year, his parents had divorced. His father had left Sierra Leone for a neighboring country and his mother, who had become destitute, was sleeping on a friend's floor with her youngest child. Sah was placed in a Sierra Leone government orphanage. Now about 12 years of age Sah continues to live in an orphanage in Freetown, hopefully with a much improved attitude over the very difficult behavior he exhibited with two Minnesota foster families who cared for Sah during his surgeries, recuperation and rehabilitation.