A teen from the Ivory Coast of Africa is spending his first Thanksgiving in America.
Doctors brought Shep Fidele to Oklahoma two years ago to give him a prosthetic leg, and recently he came back for good to a new home and a new family.
“I speak little English,” Fidele says in English, which is more than he could when we first met.
The 17-year-old is taking on his new challenges with a smile. It would seem to be a breeze compared to the life he is leaving behind in Cote D'Ivoire.
Donna Clark, whose family has welcomed Fidele into their home, says, “It’s really sad because I can’t imagine my own parents rejecting me because I was ill.”
Abandoned at the age of eight, Fidele spent years alone struggling with an infection that ate away at his left leg. A group of Norman doctors visiting his village later gave him the amputation he needed, then brought him to Oklahoma to be fitted for a prosthetic.
During that trip, Fidele met the Clarks. Donna says, “We were really empty nesters, so bringing Fidele in is a big change.”
Donna, Dera and their sons could not forget Fidele's can-do attitude, though, and now they are his legal guardians. Fidele arrived in the States last week to complete his education.
He is still using Google Translate to communicate, but he already feels the love. He says in French, “The biggest difference is, in my country, I’m despised by my parents, but there is a family who has taken me in and they look at me differently.”
Now Fidele gets to experience American Thanksgiving. Overeating is still a foreign concept.
“This is my first time to live with this,” he says, “so I’m just going to see how it goes.”
Through his smile, Fidele is still suffering. He has sickle cell anemia, which causes excruciating pain. It is his driving force to eventually attend OU to study medicine. “My dream is to be a doctor because in my suffering, it is a doctor who saved my life,” he says, “and I would also like to save the lives of others.”
“The way he’s handling it just gives us inspiration,” says Fidele’s new dad Dera. “We’ve got it really good. We take a lot for granted.”
This holiday, everyone in the Clark home is giving thanks.