Mahamadou Abdoul-Rahim is a dignified Hausa gentleman from a village near Tahoua. He came to the CURE hospital with his 6 year old son, Harouna, who was born with cleft lip. Harouna was full of energy, always running around, and talking on the toy cell phone that he found at the hospital. He took it everywhere with him. Mahamadou, on the other hand, was a quiet man and never really said much and had a sad smile. I noticed a few things about him: he took good care of Harouna, he walked with a limp and he carried a cane. After a few weeks at the hospital he told us his story.
Mahamadou was married to his wife Faida for many years. They were happy together and had a large family. But when Harouna was born with cleft lip, Mahamadou was very upset. He couldn’t imagine that his wife had given birth to a child with such a defect, especially since she had already given him 8 other children that were perfectly healthy. It upset him so much that he decided to leave her and take a new wife. Faida and Harouna still lived with Mahamadou, but he rejected them. They were not kicked out of the house, but they were set aside and Mahamadou took a new wife. She soon gave birth to another baby. It seemed as though Faida and Harouna would be totally forgotten.
Then Mahamadou had an accident. One day he caught a ride on top of a big truck into a nearby town. He was going to the market. But on the way, the truck hit a tree, and Mahamadou fell and broke his leg. At first it seemed like a fairly routine fracture, but it did not heal well, and in the end Mahamadou was bed-ridden for 8 months. His leg got infected, and he was very sick. He thought he was going to die, and so did his new wife. She decided to divorce him, saying, “I would rather be a young divorcee than a young widow.” Neither a divorcee nor a widow is a very enviable position to be in here in Niger, but she made up her mind, took her baby and left.
Mahamadou found himself deathly ill, unable to walk, and abandoned by his wife. He felt the pain of rejection, and saw what it was to be marginalized because of a sickness, something you have no control over. Feeling this pain made him realize that what he had done to Faida and Harouna was wrong. He felt remorse. He brought Faida and Harouna back into his home, and Faida took care of him. She helped him regain his strength and soon he was back on his feet. Soon after, he heard about the CURE hospital and that they treat cleft lip. He arranged for Harouna to come and receive treatment, and he came himself to make sure that his son was treated.
I never met Mahamadou before his ordeal, but clearly what he went through changed him. He is a loving and caring father, and he never left Harouna’s side the whole time they were at the hospital. He was very happy with the treatment he and Harouna received at the CURE hospital, and with the surgical work that was done. He left excited about Harouna’s new smile, and excited to get home to his children and his wife. His real wife.
Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone gets a second chance. Mahamadou has gotten a second chance with his family, and we hope he will make the most of it.