Ismael – through a child’s eyes

May 17, 2024

There are several stories on our website which testify to the implications for a person living with limb difference of having a prosthetic leg but I wanted to know how it affects the life of a child. During a visit to the Gambia recently I was privileged to meet Ismael who is a 16 year old boy living in the outskirts of Banjul. I was invited to talk with Ismael who, with his mother’s permission, had agreed to tell me of his experience. His mother, Mariama, loves her job as a police woman but presently she is unable to work due to having lost her leg as a result of a horrific accident when she was burnt by boiling oil in her kitchen. 

The accident happened in 2019 so Ismael and his elder sister were very young at the time. Mariama’s burnt right leg healed quite quickly but she developed sepsis in her left leg and the decision to have it amputated was made in 2021. Ismael remembers that he was very worried, frightened that his mother wouldn’t survive and he wouldn’t see her again. He found being in school very difficult, he couldn’t concentrate in class and preferred to stay on his own in the classroom at breaktime. Teachers were sympathetic and tried to encourage him but ultimately he performed badly in his exams. 

Fortunately, he was supported by his family and friends. His father would cook breakfast before school and his auntie and family members also rallied round and took care of him and his sister. However, like many young people faced with traumatic events Ismael found a conflict between wanting to go to football training after school and visiting Mariama in hospital but his friends would support him by sometimes accompany him to the hospital to visit her and, apart from having to take money provided by his uncle to the hospital to pay for Mariam’s care and for her medicines, Ismael seems not to have memories of having to perform more onerous tasks. 

Ismael is a remarkable young man who has been able to work out his fears for his mother partly because Mariama is a very strong character. Refusing to let her amputation limit her, she does as much as she can from arranging for Ismael to change schools to one which would better suit him and push him more academically to taking no notice when neighbours try to stop her from sweeping or cleaning or ‘doing too much’. Previously very sporty and being a member of the football team which takes its members from the police, firefighters and prison workers, she is now taking an interest in amputee football. The only thing that really upsets her – is when she thinks that people see her as needing charity when her confidence and self worth comes from her belief that she is responsible for her own future health independence. She takes the view that she must keep going, doing as much as she can and being the strong woman and matriarch that she has always been and to eventually return to her job with the police. It is clear that Ismael is incredibly proud of her. With her guidance and encouragement he has picked up at school where he is studying the arts and he hopes to eventually qualify as an architect. I’m looking forward to hearing that he has achieved his ambition.

About the author

Name: SuePownall

Hey there, I’m Sue! I keep things running smoothly around here, answering all your queries at, coordinating generous leg donors from around the globe with our partners in Africa. I’ve got a keen eye for detail, so I’m also the one catching typos and sprucing up our blogs. When I’m not wielding my admin wand, you’ll find me lost in a good book, doodling away, getting crafty with some sewing, soaking up some ballet or theatre, or just laughing it up with my mates. And yes, I’m often the one bringing the biscuits – because who doesn’t love a good biscuit?

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