“Philémon, my son, was ten years old at the time,” says Véronique as she recalls the day of her son's accident. “He was walking home from school. He was a hundred yards or so from the house where 13 of us live. The traffic is terrible in Goma. A truck loaded with stones missed Philémon by inches, then tipped over and crushed his leg.
“The neighbors ran to tell us. I couldn't believe it. I was in a total panic when I got to the hospital. My son was in intensive care. When I finally got to see him, the doctors had already amputated his right leg. It was like a nightmare.”
Véronique and her husband Jean-Pierre live in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a region torn apart by more than two decades of conflict. The couple live in a small home along with their 11 children.
After Philémon’s accident, he had to stay in hospital for three months, and endured three operations. "His leg was swollen, and he wanted to die,” his mother continues. “He was so depressed. It was torture seeing him like that. When he came home, we would often find him sitting in a corner, crying.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation team met Philémon and gave him a pair of crutches. We then started providing him with physical therapy sessions three times a week at a Goma provincial hospital.
“His stump is in a good condition,” explains Noela, a physical therapist with Humanity & Inclusion. “But after the accident, they had to amputate the whole leg. He’s going to have to wear a special belt around his waist so his prosthesis stays on. At the moment, Philémon is doing exercises to strengthen the stump and make it more flexible.”
To help boost his confidence, Philémon also attends psychosocial support sessions with Brigitte, a psychologist from Humanity & Inclusion. “He is participating in psychosocial sessions," Brigitte says. "He plays and expresses he feelings, but it’s not easy. Philémon is still very fragile and very withdrawn. He used to have a lot of friends. Now it's more complicated. At school, he is the only child with a disability out of more than a thousand students. It is still difficult.”
When Humanity & Inclusion’s team asks Philémon what he wants to do when he grows up, he hesitates, then whispers that he likes cars and mechanics. His father adds, “I'm dreaming a little, but I'd like him to be an entrepreneur.”