Every patient who comes onboard the Africa Mercy has a unique story, but even experienced Mercy Ships nurses had never seen a case quite like Ulrich’s.

Ulrich was born with dislocated knees and a condition known as quadriceps contracture. His muscles do not develop at the same rate as his bones, causing his legs to bend drastically backward.

His mother, Georgette, desperately tried to find Ulrich the surgery he needed to walk and function like the other boys his age. But the cost of the operation and the severity of his condition defeated her. “Surgeons wouldn’t touch him,” Georgette said. “It was hard to see him hurting. When he hurts, I hurt.”

Despite the constant stares and ridicule Ulrich faced because of his condition, he found a way to adapt. He learned to walk with sticks made from sturdy branches.

But his determination to be like other boys took its toll. He developed pain in his hands and joints from supporting his body weight. “I was worried that if I was feeling such pain now, it was only going to get worse as I got older,” he said.

It became increasingly difficult for him to help his mother around the house by collecting firewood and fetching water. “I was scared to grow up like that,” Ulrich said. “I didn’t want this to be all my life was ever going to be.”

'I didn't want this to be all my life was ever going to be'

But thanks to Mercy Ships donors and volunteers, Ulrich doesn’t have to live in fear anymore.

Ulrich’s life was transformed when he received free surgery onboard the Africa Mercy. The severity of his condition required several complicated operations, but finally Ulrich woke up with two straight legs in casts.

He couldn’t believe they were actually his legs. When he stood, he reached up to see if he could touch the ceiling. And when he finally walked again, the first thing he did was hug his mum.

Now Ulrich is walking straight and tall, and he can fulfil his dream of getting a proper education.

“Before, when I would walk in the street, people would stare at me. They thought I was just a handicapped person, and they treated me differently. Now they will look again,” Ulrich says with a smile.

This incredible transformation was only possible thanks to the generosity of Mercy Ships donors and volunteers. Their support freed Ulrich from a lifetime of dependence, giving him hope for a bright future.

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