Boy, 12, reunites with hospital ship that transformed his life a decade ago as it returns to provide more surgeries

A boy who had his legs straightened by a health charity ten years ago has been back onboard the ship that transformed his life as it returned to his home country to offer more free life-changing surgeries.

Romino, now 12, was just a toddler when his legs started to bow. His parents saw he was struggling to walk and knew they could not get him the surgery he needed in their home of Madagascar.

He had faint memories of the giant hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, and people that helped him. But he never imagined he would step back on board and neither did his mother, Claudia.

She said: “I’m so happy, I’m happy because I never thought I was coming back here, I was going to see the ship again, I would be given a tour. I never thought I would be able to see the things I saw back then. I didn’t expect there would be a follow up for him.”

Tilos, as he is fondly called by those close to him, can today walk and run effortlessly on his straight legs after the surgery he received at aged three changed his future.

He said: “I remember when they [Mercy Ships] taught me how to walk again and when they picked us up at our house.”

His mother recalled the first moment she noticed that something was wrong with her son’s legs.

She said: “He didn’t have bowed legs when he was born. But his legs started to change when he was two and a half years old. When he started to walk, then, we really noticed his legs changing gradually, and we wondered if he had bowed legs.”

Claudia continued observing him and noticed his legs becoming more bent as he grew. This worried her, so she sought help from a traditional doctor who recommended leg massages as a cure. Claudia had hardly spent a month following this treatment plan when she heard that international charity Mercy Ships was coming to her country to provide free surgical care for children with conditions like Romino’s. 

She said: “The massage didn’t even last a month; we were doing the massage when they [Mercy Ships] came and I decided that I would take him for surgery.”

Soccer fan Tilos, says he wins most running races against his friends today and wants to become a doctor, like those who changed his life. He said it was: “I want to give people the same healing that I received”.

Claudia added: “People are surprised when they see him, because no one believed that he would look like this. They thought he would have the same legs. However, he’s like this now and they even ask, ‘Is it you? Is this Tilos? Is this Tilos?’”

Mercy Ships hospital ship is docked in the port of Toamasina, where Romino went onboard, delivering more than 1,000 new surgeries and training to in country medical professionals in 2024.

This marks Mercy Ships’ fourth field service in Madagascar, following previous visits in 1996, 2015 and 2016. Over the course of previous visits, Mercy Ships collaborated with the government and Ministry of Health to provide more than 6,425 life-changing surgical procedures and over 52,395 dental procedures. In addition to these surgeries, Mercy Ships has a longstanding commitment to education, having trained 2,019 healthcare professionals in the past.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Mercy Ships.

For more Information about Mercy Ships, contact:
Sophie Barnett
Mercy Ships International PR Manager
sophie.barnett@mercyships.org

About Mercy Ships:  
Mercy Ships operates hospital ships that deliver free surgeries and other healthcare services to those with little access to safe medical care. An international faith-based organization, Mercy Ships has focused entirely on partnering with African nations for the past three decades. Working with in-country partners, Mercy Ships also provides training to local healthcare professionals and supports the construction of in-country medical infrastructure to leave a lasting impact.   

Each year, more than 3,000 volunteer professionals from over 60 countries serve on board the world’s two largest non-governmental hospital ships, the Africa Mercy® and the Global Mercy. Professionals such as surgeons, dentists, nurses, health trainers, cooks, and engineers dedicate their time and skills to accelerate access to safe surgical, obstetric and anesthetic care. Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 and has offices in 16 countries as well as an Africa Service Center in Dakar, Senegal. For more information, visit www.MercyShips.org and follow @MercyShips on social media.  

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