Little Jonah is two years-old, the youngest of five brothers. His mother, Valentina, is a housewife, farmer, and native Quechua speaker in their home community of Ayasana, Peru. At birth, Jonah was diagnosed with bilateral equine foot, a condition that left both of his feet twisted, mangled, and unusable. At a time when most children are learning to walk and beginning to explore their surroundings, Jonah was bound to his mother’s back, unable to put any weight on his lower limbs. Jonah, his four brothers, and his mother were abandoned by an alcoholic father who was disgusted my Jonah’s condition.
Valentina shares in Quechua between sobs, “his father was so ashamed to have a child with bent feet, and because of that he left.” He gives Valentina no money to support their five children. She claims, “he does not even remember them because he is always drunk.”
As a result, Valentina is both a father and mother to her children. She works long days on the farm to support her family. The only woman in a group of 15 men, Valentina works the fields and tends the crops all while carrying 2-year-old Jonah on her back. This is how Jonah spent his first two years of life, at home forced to crawl and drag himself around without the support of his mother.
After two years of perseverance through these difficult circumstances, Valentina heard through a local radio announcement that a team of American surgeons would be coming to offer free services. Hopeful, but not knowing for sure whether they would be able to help her son, Valentina made the five-hour trip to the nearest city of Abancay with Jonah on her back. At the Guillermo Diaz de la Vega de Abancay Regional Hospital, Esperança’s veteran volunteer Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Sachs, was midway through his second mission trip to Peru.
Dr. Sachs immediately identified Jonah as an ideal patient for surgery and performed a successful corrective procedure within the week. After the surgery, Jonah received follow-up care for 4 months from Esperança’s local team. Valentina faithfully brought Jonah back into the city every two weeks to have his cast changed out. He learned to walk during the course of his treatment. Though he continually fell, he always got back up, Valentina was so proud of her “brave fighter”. She remembers fondly that it was difficult because he was so ready and determined that he would ask to have the plaster removed from his feet so that he could walk. “Why are my shoes so hard? Why can’t you take them off?” His mother always reassured him that the time was coming soon, eager herself to watch her son take the next step in his recovery.
Every time Valentina meets with Esperança’s team, she is overwhelmed with gratitude and continues to say, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” Her neighbors and friends are equally amazed at his transformation, saying, “what a miracle they performed, helping your son walk!”
Valentina is continues to express her gratitude for what Esperança did for her son. She remembers before surgery when Jonah was bound to her back day after day. He could not walk, only crawl or drag himself across the floor. The malformation of his feet made him an outcast, unable to grow and play alongside his peers. Thanks to surgical intervention from Esperança, Jonah now has a new opportunity to live a normal life, for which Valentina is eternally grateful.