It was the middle of the night, and Perlagie couldn’t sleep. The image of Maomai, her three-month-old baby girl, flashed through her mind every time she closed her eyes. A huge tumor the size of the baby’s head was jutting out of Maomai’s neck. Perlagie looked over at her daughter, peacefully sleeping in her hospital bed, and began to cry.
For over a week, Perlagie had stayed in the hospital, waiting and praying for a doctor to help Maomai – but no one came. In the morning, they were being sent home. Perlagie didn’t know what to do.
When Perlagie finally fell asleep, she had a dream.
“In that dream, I saw a person, who told me I should be quiet and pray – that salvation shall come.”
The next morning, Perlagie felt confident and peaceful. She didn’t know where help would come from, but she knew God was going to take care of her baby.
Maomai was born with a teratoma, which means monstrous tumor. It started out as a small, golf-ball sized lump on her neck, but within three months, the tumor had grown to the size of her head.
Everyone in Perlagie’s village was afraid of Maomai. The grotesque tumor was difficult to look at, and the villagers thought they could be contaminated by it. No one would touch or play with the small baby.
“One time I was in the bathroom, and the baby was crying. People were around the baby, but they would not touch her because of the tumor. They left her crying, alone. Even the members of my family,” said Perlagie.
Perlagie was alone. Maomai was a precious, beautiful baby girl, and she could see that, but others simply couldn’t see past the monstrous tumor. In a country where perceived physical differences mark people as outcasts, Maomai was treated like a monster instead of a baby girl.
“I was very, very, sad. I was not able to sleep,” said Perlagie. “Every day, I was crying. Also, I was not eating. I had no appetite because of the condition of my baby.”
Perlagie and her husband wanted to get Maomia help. They took her to a local hospital, but there was no surgeon to perform her surgery. Perlagie didn’t become anxious or fearful. She confidently left the hospital, trusting God to bring healing and deliverance from the tumor.
When Perlagie returned to her village, her sister-in-law told her about the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship filled with doctors and nurses, which had come to Cotonou. She had just returned from the ship after being treated for an eye problem and thought they could help Maomai.
Perlagie brought her daughter to the Africa Mercy and was screened by the medical team. It was obvious that she needed immediate surgery. But the tumor had made it difficult for her to feed, and Maomai was very underweight – too underweight for surgery. The Mercy Ships medical team placed her on a feeding program and scheduled her for surgery in one month. Mercy was on its way. The salvation Perlagie had dreamed of was becoming a reality.
A month passed, and it was time for Maomai’s surgery. The morning of surgery, Peralgie worried it would not be successful.
“I started crying. Some nurses and translators told me the operation was possible with God. The doctor will be successful with surgery, the tumor will be removed, and the baby will be healed. They gave me that hope,” said Perlagie.
After six hours of surgery, Maomai’s tumor was removed. It weighed 375 grams, 15% of her body weight. The monstrous tumor was gone, and the beautiful baby girl remained.
Maomai spent over a month recovering in the hospital. Still struggling to maintain her weight, she had to be fed through a surgically placed feeding tube.
The nursing staff encouraged Perlagie to use the feeding tube. At first, she was hesitant. Perlagie distanced herself from Maomai. But as she grew more comfortable in the hospital, things changed. The nursing staff taught Perlagie how to use the feeding tube. As she took ownership of Maomai’s care, their relationship thrived.
“Initially, we were worried about her,” said pediatric nurse Ali Chandra. “But now she’s been here for over a month, and she’s blossomed. Perlagie has completely bonded with Maomai in the time they’ve been here. And it happened as we started teaching her [to use the feeding tube]. She’s doing really well,” says Chandra.
Maomai has continued to grow stronger since her surgery. Not only has she gained weight, she’s gained vibrancy.
“Maomai used to be this kind of listless baby, and now she’s bright. She’s doing more age-appropriate things than before,” says Chandra.
Psalm 13:5 says, “I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (NKJV).
Perlagie knows this to be true. She trusted God to take care of her baby, and He brought her salvation. Perlagie is rejoicing in His mercy.
“I thank God, and I thank each of you, for all you have done for me. God is healing and still working. I have seen my salvation in this child,” she concluded.
Written by Megan Petock
Edited by IOC Editing Team
Photography by Debra Bell and Megan Petock