When Cindy Daugherty, director of Neosho's Open Doors Foundation, Inc., and other people from the Neosho area go on a medical mission in January to West Africa, one of the people they will visit is 14-year-old Susan Mendy.
"Susan had severe curvature of the spine," said Daugherty. "Her father — Pastor Alkali Mendy — was an interpreter who helped us in our January 2012 medical clinic."
Prior to the January 2012 trip, the pastor had emailed Daugherty about his daughter's condition.
"So he was desperate to get care for his daughter and so I had forwarded that information to Dr. Brian Ispen (with Orthopaedic Specialists of the Four States, Galena, Kan.)," she said.
Daugherty had worked with Ispen about a year before this.
"Dr. Brian had served as one of the physicians on our team previously," said Daugherty. "He had been very instrumental in caring for another girl, Fatou Keita, who actually came to the states, who had been severely burned."
Keita, her mother, Fatoumata, and their interpreter, Monique, stayed in Daugherty's house from April to September 2011 and they returned to West Africa on Sept. 13, 2011.
The first step to Susan's treatment was to get X-rays of her spine.
"We had communicated that with Pastor Alkali, so I was just waiting for Pastor Alkali to get the X-rays to me," Daugherty said. "I moved on to the medical (mission) and we were needing some new interpreters. Well, since I had never met (the pastor), before, I didn't put the two together. And it wasn't until the last day of the clinic he asked if he could talk to me privately. I agreed and he began to explain to me that he just couldn't get copies made of the X-ray, and had been trying to do everything he could to get me them. That was the point that I realized that he was the same man that I had been emailing. He had brought the X-rays with him, so I hand carried the X-rays back over the ocean to Dr. Brian. (Ispen) was able to evaluate them and that is when we were able to make arrangements for them to meet in Cameroon (West Africa)."
Ispen and his family had planned a trip to Cameroon in June of this year.
"He was going to be teaching at a local mission hospital there," said Daugherty. "Between the efforts of Dr. Ispen and myself, we were able to arrange travel arrangements for Susan, her father Pastor Alkali Mendy (who live in Gambia) and they traveled in the first of June to Cameroon. They met with the Ispen family."
Ispen performed the corrective surgery on Susan the first week of June.
"He actually had to put rods and screws in the spine to straighten it up," said Daugherty. "They had said if she had not had this surgery, she probably within a year or so would have passed away due to a gradual suffocating because of the chest cavity."
Page 2 of 2 - And now, Susan is doing wonderfully, Daugherty said.
"We had the privilege of being able to see her in October when we returned with our pastoral conference, she helped us when we went to the school, helped us with the school children, and she is just doing really well," she said. "We do occasionally communicate by email. It is difficult for them, one to afford to go to a cyber café and the other is with the electricity on and off. But we do occasionally and by phone and Skype. I was able to meet the entire family in October when we went. Words can't describe their gratitude."
In a statement, Ispen said, "I am amazed and humbled by the bravery, strength and unwavering faith of this young girl from Gambia, who was curved and twisted but never lost sight of her mission on this earth. My whole family learned lessons from her and are better people having shared time with her."
Daugherty also was pleased with the doctor's help.
"It is overwhelming, because we just take for granted that we have specialized medicine at our fingertips," she said. "Both of the surgeries that he (Ispen) has done for the two African girls is not even available even in the capitol city of Senegal, so he is providing a once in a lifetime opportunity. And for these young ladies, it not only means their medical care but also their livelihood, their socialization because they are ostracized without it, they have no ways of earning a living, working in the rice fields."