Thirteen-year-old Deborah was born in Ghana with gen varum, the technical term for “bow-leggedness.” Initially, it didn’t cause any pain, but as she grew older, her condition worsened and started to cause pain. At this time there is no permanent treatment option in Ghana for such conditions, and anything that could be offered would be costly. Her only option was to seek treatment abroad.
Like many other children in Ghana, Deborah and her siblings became orphans due to family circumstances. Just a few years ago, she and her two siblings found their way to Volta Hope Children’s Home, one of a few places dedicated to helping Ghanaian children who have been trafficked or deserted due to the financial struggles many of their families endure.
At Deborah’s home, she would not go to school with her younger siblings because she was often teased and bullied due to her disability. Instead, she acted as a “house mother” to her family in the absence of her mother. “I was not happy,” said Deborah. “I missed going to school, and taking care of my other siblings was very difficult.”
At Volta Hope Children’s Home, Deborah would not only get to attend school, but she would be able to get the medical attention she needed for her condition from the staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia. The home’s director, Ernest Agbesi, is also a Shriner. He had spent time driving patients to their appointments when he was in the United States and knew that the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital staff would be able to help Deborah.
Ernest and his wife, Kate, started Volta Hope Children’s Home in 2017. The two met professionally through his business. After getting to know one another and realizing their shared passion for helping orphans, they married in 2012. Seeing the need for more homes, they eventually sold one of their businesses and began construction on Volta Hope Children’s Home to help more children in need.
“We think that all our children at the home deserve the best we can give them,” said Kate. “Orphans have it really hard in Ghana, but those with any kind of disability have it even harder. Many people in Ghana believe you are evil or cursed if you have a disability."
“When my wife and I met Deborah, we both felt she deserved a chance to have a better life, but knew that she wouldn’t with her legs and having a disability that would continue to get worse,” said Ernest. “We wanted to do whatever we could to help her and give her a shot at having a normal life.”
After Deborah’s initial examination, it was determined that she would have surgery to correct both legs, one at a time. These procedures and therapy would help her to stand up straight and give her more independence. Ernest and Kate would look after her while she received care in the U.S. for several months.
The care Deborah is receiving from Sarah Nossov, M.D., and her team of rehabilitation therapists is preparing her for the return to Volta Hope Children’s Home. She will continue receiving therapy while recovering from surgery.
“On our first visit to the hospital, I remember the staff saying ‘We are going to see a big difference with this child,’ which gave all of us so much hope,” said Kate. “Seeing her first leg get straightened out brought tears to our eyes.”
The Agbesis are grateful for the opportunity to help so many children in Ghana. They keep a close eye on all their medical needs and look forward to seeing Deborah through her care plan. “I’m so proud to be a part of and involved with an organization like Shriners Hospital,” said Ernest. “The work that the Shriners do to support the hospitals and the assistance that we give to many children treated there is a blessing for all of us.”