by Sr. Leonie McSweeney (1932 – 2019) Ireland/Nigeria 23.08.2023
“He is a very sick man, Sister, and he comes from far away. I think he is hopeless, but I brought him in hoping you might be able to help him. If he is going to die soon, he would like to do so at home.”
That was the first time I saw Mfon Udo. A missionary priest had gone to see him in response to a sick call. Mfon was not baptised but wanted to be baptised now. The right side of his body was completely paralysed due to a lump in his neck which was pressing on his spinal cord.
There was a chance we could help him ad he was admitted. Slowly the lump began to reduce in size, but so slowly that the patient could not see any progress and thus the inevitable request came. Doctor had tried and he was grateful. But now he wished to return to his family. Pleading was useless so the priest reluctantly took him home again.
A few days later we went to see him as I was worried about his back. Who would give his skin the necessary care to prevent the development of bed sores? It was the rainy season and floods made the roads almost impassable, but eventually we reached our destination. We found our friend in a tiny hut, his paralysed body lying on the bare mud floor. A little boy of six years was looking after him while his wife was working on their tiny farm some distance away with the other children. The little amenities which make most of the village homes quite cosy were completely lacking.
We decided that here was a chance for the Christians of the nearby village to show how the love of Christ was active in them. We instructed them in the care of pressure areas and gave them the simple equipment required and some medicine to continue Mfon’s treatment. As we bathed and massaged him, I wondered what was in his mind – he was so silent. When we rose to go, he spoke: “Why did Sister love him so much?”
The next time we went to see him the neighbours ran to meet us. Mfon was getting better, they told us. Now he could lift up his arm. He lay on a soft mattress now and looked cared for. We raised him to his feet and showed the neighbours how to teach him to walk again. The hospital carpenter made a pair of crutches for him which were delivered the next time the priest went that way.
The last I heard of Mfon was that he had been seen walking up to Holy Communion having left his crutches behind in his seat.