In a village in northwest Senegal, the name Serigne holds great significance.

It resonates with leadership and authority. Many people and establishments proudly bear this distinguished name throughout the village, symbolising a belief in their potential for greatness.

This means that 6-year-old Serigne is in good company. His father, Abdou, says he deliberately chose the name because he foresaw a future of influence for his son.

“I wanted to give him this name because when you believe someone is going to be great, you name them Serigne,” he explains.

At his tender age, Serigne already embodies the essence of leadership that his name implies. His parents started seeing his determined spirit early in life. “Since he started talking, if he wants something, he won’t hesitate to tell you,” Said Abdou. “God gave him this leadership spirit; he was born with it, and he (Serigne) shares everything with everyone.”

Serigne’s outgoing personality felt like a gift for his parents, because they knew from a young age that his life would not be easy. Serigne developed bowed legs as a child. When he was 2 years old, his parents noticed he took longer to walk, and when he did, he struggled.

“As he was growing, we noticed that his legs were slowly opening. At that moment, we knew what was blocking his progress.” His parents feared the physical and social limitations he would face would affect his confidence. “His legs would ache when he was playing and running… he was different from other children,” his mom, Seye, recalls.

However, the condition did not dampen Serigne’s spirits. “He is such a happy boy, he is a fighter… he has a strong spirit!” said Seye.

But when it was time to start school, looking different began to affect Serigne. Other children made fun of him, and he got into fights. Eventually, to shield him from ridicule, his parents made the difficult decision to remove him from school.

Being a twin made this especially difficult for Serigne, who watched his brother Fallou go to school and grew discouraged.

Surgery on the Global Mercy

Serigne’s parents couldn’t afford surgery at the local hospitals. So, when they heard that Serigne might be eligible to receive safe, free surgery with Mercy Ships, they immediately took him for screening. He qualified for surgery, and he and his mother traveled to Dakar to board the organisation’s newest hospital ship, the Global Mercy™.

Serigne’s life-changing surgery took four hours. Volunteer orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Johannes Kolbe from Germany was part of the team performing Serigne’s surgery. He reflected on the profound impact he hoped the surgery would have on Serigne’s life, saying, “We can expect that he can walk, and he can learn, and he can go to school.”

While the surgery was relatively swift, Serigne’s path to full recovery involved weeks of dedicated rehabilitation. During this time, the resilience he was known for shone bright. “He is itching to walk. In fact, he keeps telling the nurses that he wants to walk,” shared volunteer nurse and ward leader Ansley Burnett, a few days after Serigne’s surgery.

The recovery took time, as Serigne had to spend a few weeks in casts before he could start exercising on a walker. But he rose to the challenge with every step. Much to the delight of patients and hospital crew, he faced his journey with an ever-present smile and contagious laughter that echoed through the hospital halls.

Once again, Serigne exemplified the strong-willed spirit that defines his name. “Serigne is a joyful person; wherever he is, he’s open to people and makes them laugh,” said Abdou.

Serigne’s Newfound Freedom

“He went to the ship with pain, but he returned home with great joy,” celebrated Abdou after Serigne’s homecoming. Serigne, bursting with excitement, immediately wanted to show off his transformation to his friends. His passion was uncontainable despite his parents’ gentle pleas to take it easy. As an outward display of this newfound freedom, he insisted on walking to all their neighbours’ houses.

“There was a time I could not really sleep because of his legs… If my level of anxiety was at 100%, I can say that it’s on 5% now,” said Abdou, beaming with joy. “His legs have been fixed, so going to school isn’t going to be so bad,” he added.

The surgery allowed Serigne to explore a world without limitations, sparing him a life defined by physical challenges. His parents say they see a vibrant future for their son where his strong personality can shine even brighter.