Journey Up the Gangway

The  day I met Ulrich is not one I will soon forget.

I had scanned my badge and was heading down the gangway when I spotted some commotion at the bottom of the gangway. In the middle of the group was a boy who, at first glace, looked like he was sitting on the ground. His extatic expression said that he was more than ready to board the ship, and perhaps a bit frustrated with the nurses and his family who wanted him to take it slow.

You see, Ulrich had a condition known as “quadriceps contracture,” which means that his muscles have not grown at the same rate as his bones since birth. At age 12, his condition had left him with severely bent legs to compensate for the short muscle. He “walked” either as you see in the picture or by scooting along on his upper legs. The excitement I saw on Ulrich’s face came from the hope that his life was about to change drastically.

That day on the gangway was the beginning of a lengthy path for Ulrich. After the doctors screened him that day, he went back to our outpatient center (or H.O.P.E. Center). I saw him there, happily playing (and winning!) the game Connect Four, with his feet stretched above his head.

I didn’t see Ulrich for a few weeks after that. When I next saw him, I almost didn’t recognize him, as he stood tall in his full leg casts. Ulrich had receive free surgery to loosen his muscles, straighten his legs and brighten his future.

Please pray for Ulrich and the other orthopedic patients as they continue physical therapy and learn how to use their recently straightened legs. It is a long process and requires perseverance and belief that hard work will pay off. And please pray for us and the rest of the Mercy Ships crew as we minister to the spiritual and social needs of the orthopedic patients and their families.