There is an imaginary line that goes down the middle of Delamou’s face. It is the line between his “good side” and his “bad side,” between beauty and stigma. On the right is a sweet seven-year-old-boy-smile, and on the left is an area of tissue between his eye, nose and mouth that was once eaten away by disease.
As is true for many victims of noma, an opportunistic bacterial infection that attacks facial tissue, Delamou’s disfigurement was startling. The graphic absence of skin is what makes this disease of poverty both painful and socially debilitating. But on board the Africa Mercy, you will notice Delamou’s injury on one condition . . . if you can keep up.
Delamou has commandeered a red tricycle, and he can be found in the hallways of the hospital, zipping between wards and sniffing out (or perhaps causing) trouble. It didn’t take long for him to win over the hearts of every Africa Mercy volunteer. Looking at Delamou, no one sees his disfigured face – only the smile of a child we can’t help but love.
Since his multi-stage reconstructive surgery, Delamou’s face is returning to normal. With each day, the imaginary line is fading. Delamou’s beauty is returning – encroaching on a territory formerly claimed by stigma.
Even wrapped under bandages and tape, this little boy’s life has made a turnaround. “His beauty has changed him already,” says Delamou’s uncle, Francois. He is beautiful, indeed!