African Teen Perseveres Through Amputation
NORMAN, Oklahoma - A West African teenager is preparing to head back home with a brand new leg thanks to two Oklahoma prosthetic companies.
Shep Fidele, 15, from Cote D'Ivoire, is the embodiment of perseverance. As he said “au revoir,” he hopes to take back an experience that is stronger than his new titanium leg.
In just a few short but very difficult years, Fidele has gone from being an outcast in his village to having hundreds of new friends. On his trip to Oklahoma, he was embraced by high schools around the area and the Crosspointe Church community in Norman.
An orphan, Fidele’s aunt and uncle threw him out of the house at the age of 8 when his left leg became infected, telling him he was no longer of any use. The 1040i organization amputated that leg two years later while on an annual medical trip to the country.
On Sunday, Fidele was finally reunited with one of the nurses who was there that day.
“He had, as you can imagine, terrific pain having a limb amputated, but he was a brave little guy, just tough,” Maggie Jensen said.
Fidele is one of thousands of West Africans facing a lack of simple, but life-saving medical care.
“It’s very difficult for them when they don’t have any mobility. They are not even considered to be a person,” Fidele said through his translator and 1040i president Mike Cousineau.
He and others are often accused of sorcery and witchcraft when a traditional shaman's remedies do not heal serious maladies.
“The witchcraft, the things that are there have been ingrained in the people for years and years,” said Jensen. “It’s going to take more groups like us to go in and say ‘hey, there’s a different world out there.’”
Fidele hopes to be a face for the future for his people, showing that disability does not equal death.
“When I return I want to share with the people how kind and gracious the people in America have been to me. Many of them approach me. They weren’t afraid of me. They weren’t afraid to touch me. Hundreds of people wanted to take their picture with me,” he said.
The teen now hopes to study medicine and become a doctor to help more kids like him.