When he first arrived on the dock of the Africa Mercy cradled in his mother’s arms, Paul was a ghost of a baby. He was born with a cleft lip and palate that made it nearly impossible for him to nurse, and at just three months old he was slowly starving.
Paul and his mother, Francoise, spent several life-changing months with the Mercy Ships Infant Feeding Program. Under the caring hands of dietitians like Lee-Anne Borrow James and Janet Stucky, Paul grew healthy and strong, gaining over 4 kilograms.
But Paul’s journey through the Infant Feeding Program was not the end of his time with Mercy Ships. While his severe malnutrition had thankfully been addressed, the surgical team still needed to repair the source of his struggle: a cleft lip and palate.
Three months after the dietitians first met Paul Pascal, he weighed more than 6 kilograms, and was finally ready for the first of his surgeries. His cleft lip repair was a resounding success, leaving Paul with just a small healing scar.
Francoise’s heart was overflowing with joy and gratitude! “When I go back home, people will say, ‘Look! This is not your baby. You’ve gone to the city and exchanged your baby!'” she cried.
After a period of recovery, Francoise was able to bring Paul home to their astounded family and friends. “They were astonished and amazed,” she said.
At home, Paul continued to grow stronger, and was soon back onboard the Africa Mercy to finally receive his cleft palate surgery.
This operation connected the muscles of his soft palate and closed the gap in the roof of his mouth, enabling him to eat and speak normally as he grows up.
“His cleft palate repair was the culmination of our team’s efforts,” said Janet Stucky, the volunteer Clinical Dietician and Infant Feeding Coordinator. “Baby Paul had a successful surgery, which will change his life forever.”
A short hospital stay later, Paul’s journey with Mercy Ships was complete. Now weighing over 9 kilograms (almost 20 lbs), no one could recognize the gaunt baby they’d first seen.
He was one of the first patients up the gangway in Cameroon, and was also among the last to receive surgery in the final weeks before the hospital closed. Loved by the crew, Paul was a reminder to everyone of the transforming difference hope and healing can make.
And now, Paul Pascal has reached a milestone his mother thought she would never see: his first birthday!
Paul came to the Africa Mercy close to starvation, but he’s leaving the ship as a little boy with his whole life ahead of him.
“I’m so thankful for all the love and care here,” said Francoise. “Before, I was walking with a dead corpse, but the Lord has changed the life of Paul and given him a new one!”