Surgery Changes Teen’s Life Forever


Alorah Leinenbach, Beat Investigator

Teenager Valerie was born with legs pointing in and out. Bowlegs,  when the legs curve out at a high angel, were so severe that she was unable to walk. In grade school she would always get bullied for being “different than the others”. When the West African teen was 4- years-old, she asked her parents if she could quit school and do online school because of all the hate.  As other kids learn to walk at the age of one, she didn’t start walking until the age of 3 and a half. Even as a 14-year-old, she still has trouble walking.

Left is legs before surgery and right is after surgery

Valerie underwent the surgery in Africa Mercy, a hospital ship full of nurses, doctors, and medical personnel. Her parents claim that there was a lot of stress when Valerie was getting surgery because of all the people in the background. Her mom was nervous when it was happening because they had only done operations on 76 kids in the past. During the surgery, doctors removed a wedge of bone from the outside of Valerie’s knees. Then doctors proceeded to put wire in her skin to help her continue to walk. The surgery all went good and she spent 4 months in the hospital recovering.

When laying in the recovery bed she said she “was desperate to learn how to read” and she was ready to stick up to the haters. She started to work on her walking and even got a service dog to help her get along. After a few months of training, her legs were finally strong enough to hold her up. She returned home and went back to public school. She says that all of the people who used to bully her are now her best friends. Her parents say that they are really happy to see her progress and how she has grown throughout the years and they call the surgery a miracle because they would have never thought that she would have returned to school and be happy again.