Julien has a large tumour protruding from his lower jaw, which he covers with an old, pink rag. He lives in a remote village north of Cotonou with his Mother and younger Brother, Marcellin.
Julian used to work repairing tyres and according to his brother was a very social person. He now spends his days in the company of his family and is reluctant to leave the home out of fear of his neighbour’s reactions. Some people in his village believe he should have died from his tumour. Julian relies heavily on his mother who has to support the family after the death of Julien’s father four years ago.
Julien believes his father died of a broken heart when the family couldn't afford surgery to remove his tumour.
After seeing information on the internet about Mercy Ships, Marcellin brought his brother to the screening in Cotonou. Julien waited for days, sleeping at the screening site in hopes of being seen.
One morning, Screening Security Matt Tveite noticed Julien milling around in the crowd outside the gate and told him to get in line. When Matt returned to let more potential patients in, the line, seeing his need, decided to move him up to the front. Matt was astounded, saying he’d never, in all his experience with Mercy Ships, seen a crowd respond that way.
After several rounds of screening, Julien received a date for surgery. His response was full of faith,
"God will perform a miracle. Without God, there's nothing else. Don't be discouraged - don't think things are beyond hope. Anything that happens to a human being - believe in your heart that there will be hope one day. If I didn't have faith, I would have died."
After his surgery on the Africa Mercy, Julien spent several weeks recovering. When the time came to return home, Julien was ready. He finally felt he could walk freely outside, instead of hiding from everyone.
When Julien, Marcellin, and their sister, Alice, arrived at their home, their mum ran out to greet them. She rejoiced and said, "welcome, welcome, welcome" as she hugged Julien. Julien’s uncle and another friend arrived, and the emotional homecoming continued. They all gathered and Alice prayed.
As Julien walked around his village, his neighbors were amazed at his transformation. They came together to have a celebration for Julien, singing, dancing and sharing snacks.
As for the rag Julien used to hide his tumour? He says he’s thrown it out “like a piece of used toilet paper.” He’s been transformed.
Don't miss The Surgery Ship starting Tuesdays from 18th April 7.30pm AEDT on Nat Geo People