CURE Malawi through the eyes of Ernest
“Now I want to be a photographer like you, with a camera like this!” – Ernest tells CURE Malawi’s Storyteller, Alexis, during his stay in the hospital.
Ernest came into CURE Malawi’s hospital in October of 2018 with bilateral neglected clubfoot. His gentle personality and kind soul instantly captivated the hearts of patients, guardians and staff members. Two weeks after Ernest’s first operation, in which he had two Ilizarov frames placed on each foot, he decided he was getting tired of hanging out in bed all day and needed something to keep him distracted. He waved over Alexis to see if he could play with her camera and she
could teach him how to take pictures. Once he got a hold of the camera, his face lit up, and he learned the technical details rather quickly. He began taking photos of his frames, his friends, and the activities going on around him. Storyteller Alexis asked Ernest if he would like to take over his status updates and photos, posting everything from his perspective. With a big smile, he agreed! Here are a few quotes and photographs from Ernest’s journey during his stay at CURE Malawi.
“I am happy because we get to go through this together. I will try to be as strong as Chisomo, by God’s grace,” —Ernest, after recovering from his first operation.
“Today my mum is cleaning my wounds. Chisomo also had her wounds cleaned. They clean around the frame so I don’t get an infection. My mum is also like my private nurse!”
“The doctors are fixing my frames to make my legs straighter.”
Ernest took a photo before going into the operating room for the surgeons to change the center washer on his right frame from metal to nylon, and reset the direction of both frames by bringing in the rods. After surgery, he gently whispers, “My legs are in a lot of pain,” saying this with his familiar smile.
“I have been in a lot of pain, so the nurses have given me ice to sleep with. Today I went outside and helped Simon build a fort with sticks and foam.”
This is just one of many examples of why Ernest is so loved by the staff and patients at CURE Malawi.
“This morning I watched television. It was of Malawians singing and dancing to gospel music. I really like to watch videos.”
Malawians watch very little television but enjoy this special treat during down time.
“I am at physio doing my exercises. Lex helped me take this photo because the camera was too heavy for me to hold. I just pushed the button.”
Ernest smiled as he recalled this day. He enjoys watching cartoons during his physio sessions; his favorites are Tom and Jerry, Popeye, and The Incredibles.
“This morning during ward rounds, Dr. Lubega said I will need more adjustments to both of my frames, and I will continue my turns. I was hoping to go home soon, but the program keeps getting longer. I hope I get my frames off soon. Please pray I can go home soon!”
The delay in going home set Ernest back for a few days, but he quickly regrouped as he patiently awaited his release from the hospital.
“I went to the playroom today! We played with balloons. The doctors told me I am getting my frames off Thursday and I am counting down the days.”
Ernest is excited to take his last picture with frames on. He wants his pictures taken from his perspective during his surgery, but knows he won’t be awake, so he asks Alexis to capture every moment. Ernest is nervous for the surgery, but looks forward to seeing the photos when he wakes up.
The day after Ernest’s frame removal, he is very excited to see his legs frame free.
“I am going home tomorrow! Yesterday, Patience’s mum gave my mum her phone so she could call home to tell my family. I got to talk to my sister. I was so excited to tell her I was coming home. Now I have casts. I am in pain, but it is better than the frames.”
After Ernest spent a month at his home village, he came back to the hospital to have his casts removed and to have his final operation, a tendon transfer for both feet. The masses on the sides of both of Ernest’s feet will shift over time, as he slowly adjusts to walking properly on his heels.
Ernest thanks you for your prayers, support and messages throughout his time recovering at CURE Malawi. He is excited for his full healing very soon; to be walking, running and jumping as he was created to be!
“Thank you so much! Thank you for following my story, my photos, and my love for cartoons! Thank you for praying for me!”
The hospital staff and patients miss Ernest’s kind heart and genuine smile but are excited for his future.
Footnotes:Photos by Ernest. Story (and photography assistance) by Alexis Gilmore, Storyteller, CURE Malawi