In 2013, Compassion International Ghana entered a fifth region of Ghana—the Ashanti Region—and is giving hope to more children and their families. Mercy Baptist Church in Kumasi was one of the first 15 churches in the region that Compassion Ghana partnered with. After only being open for a few months, the new Child Development Center’s holistic impact was spreading fast.
Word spread quickly throughout the the Anloga community, where the center is located, about the medical intervention given to five-year-old Joseph.
Joseph is the first of two children born to Afua and Benjamin. He was born a normal child and grew healthily until he turned seven months old. It was then that his head started growing faster than the rest of his body. Within a short time, it had grown so huge that his little neck could no longer hold it up.
Afua and Benjamin attributed it to spiritual influence, which they were made to believe by members of their extended family. Anloga is a superstitious community that believes in idol worship and sees everything ruled by spirits and witches.
So, Joseph was not sent to the hospital; he was taken to spiritualist after spiritualist, but there was no improvement. His head kept growing bigger and bigger.
Afua said, “Everybody was saying all kinds of things to us and giving us all sorts of advice. One day one of the spiritualists we went to told us that Joseph was the child of the river god who had come to me and that I had to return Joseph. The spiritualist said we should go and leave him by the river at midnight and do some rituals, and that Joseph would turn into a snake and go back into the river—his home.”
Some people in the community even gossiped that either Afua or Benjamin had offended some god, who was punishing them by giving them a problem child.
When they had exhausted all other options without seeing any result, they considered the hospital as the last resort. Unfortunately, the hospital did not help much.
Afua says, “When we finally sent Joseph to the hospital, the doctors did not treat our case as important. Sometimes I would go and sit with Joseph from morning to evening, and the doctor would just come in, look at him, and give us some liquid drugs and tell me to come again in two weeks.”
According to Afua, the last time she sent Joseph to the hospital, the doctor told her that they should bring GHs 3,000 (about $1200) for a surgery. Since they didn’t have the money, they did not go back again until Compassion came to their aid.
Mercy Baptist Child Development Center became active on the November 2, 2013, and on November 29, 2013, Joseph was sent to the hospital by the center staff. After a series of tests, Joseph was diagnosed with infant hydrocephalus.
Infant hydrocephalus is one of the most common abnormalities affecting the nervous system of children around the globe. Sometimes referred to as “water on the brain,” infant hydrocephalus can exist at birth or be acquired after. It develops when the normal flow and absorption of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain is hindered or blocked, resulting in excessive accumulation of fluid in the ventricles of the brain. If left untreated, it can result in pain and suffering, significant brain damage, severe developmental delay, blindness, and ultimately death.
With the influence of the health specialist for Compassion Ghana, Daniel Asante, and the coordinator of Mercy Baptist Child Development Center, Philip, it was easy to book an appointment with a neurosurgeon to see Joseph. On December 24, 2013, Joseph had a successful surgery at the cost of GHs2,500 ($1000).
In four days exactly, Joseph was out of hospital with a new hope to live and lead a normal life.
The first few days Joseph attended the center before having the surgery were not happy ones. According to the workers, he used to cry a lot, due to pain and discomfort. He could not stand on his own. When he was put on a chair, he would clutch the table and refuse to let go for fear toppling over from the weight of his head. So, someone had to feed him his food and drink. He never smiled or played with the other children.
Now just a couple of months after the surgery, Joseph is able to eat on his own. He can let go of the table and do things with his hands. He plays with friends and participates in class. He can also flip the pages to see the pictures in the Bible that the center gave him.
But what is most exciting is that he can now stand on his feet and take a few steps.
Afua used to be a petty trader, but she had to give that up to be there for her Joseph, who needed her every minute. She had to carry him on her back everywhere. Even though Afua still has to carry Joseph around, she is convinced that it will not be long before he will be moving about on his own.
She is overwhelmed at what Compassion and the church have done for her.
She said, “I do not know what to say to display the way I feel inside me for what Compassion and Mercy Baptist have done for my family. This was the child I was advised to go and abandon by a river bank. Now, just look at this good-looking boy. All I can say is thank you.”
Philip is optimistic that the partnership with Compassion and Mercy Baptist will make a great difference in the community. He recounts how it was a big challenge to get children to register for the program. As superstitious as they are, the parents were suspicious.
“But now, after what they have heard and seen the center do and the Christmas gifts that the children received at Christmas, people are now trooping into the project office every day, asking to be given a chance,” Phillip said.
This story was written in April of 2014 and we checked back with Mercy Baptist Child Development Center to see how Joseph was doing. As of May of this year, they report that he is doing well and can walk with ease without any aid. He can even run and play like a normal child. He is not on any medication but the doctor has recommended a physiotherapist to accelerate his progress.