History of a disease
The unfinished journey of young Cheikhou, “my eye is my life”.

My name is Cheikou SAKHO. I am heavily scarred by a disease that hit my left eye. It occupied my mind for an essential part of my young life.

I was born in Diaguily, a village located in the commune of Gouraye in Mauritania. As a child, I spent my entire existence in this city, happy and happy like everyone of my age. This joy was abruptly interrupted by an affection that touched me too soon. I did not know the causes.

My parents turned heaven and earth to understand the why and how of my affection. Following their extensive research, they concluded that it was called, in Soninke, "Fanké", "swelling of the eye". My father accompanied me to several health centers and hospitals in Mauritania, Mali and Senegal with a view to finding a place for me where I could benefit from appropriate care.

Throughout these trips, I met several doctors who did their best to treat my illness. Their efforts were unsuccessful. With each displacement, a joy and a hope lived in me. Following the various consultations, the health specialists told me that the treatments I had to follow would be complex in nature. Their words gave rise to enormous disappointment in me. I felt, after each meeting, a return to square one.

I went to school for a few years in the village. But I could hardly stand the stares of my classmates. So I had to stop my schooling very early. However, I had found a mission that suited me. It consisted of accompanying my father, who fell ill and became blind. I had conscientiously assigned myself the mission of being his guide. I was at his side in all his efforts. I also did, in his place, the gardening work to feed the family.

Fatherless : between mourning and seeking care

Following his various ailments, my father died. So, I was orphaned from him. Between his death and my illness, I felt lost, disoriented. I did not know what to do. Too young to understand, I curled up on myself and surrendered to fate.

The commitment of a tireless mother

The death of my father hardly left my mother with folded arms. She took her pilgrim's staff to take care of me and continue the quest for solutions to my problem. She fought with all her might for my situation to improve. With her, we made several other trips to Bamako, Dakar and Nouakchott. The doctors we met in Dakar and Nouakchott did not dare to intervene since they had no knowledge of the origins of my illness. Thus, they advised us to go to Morocco or Tunisia, countries where medical care was more advanced.

First aid: the start of a new short joy

It was in Bamako that I had the opportunity to be, for the first time, taken care of by a doctor who was able to perform an operation to get rid of this pimple which grew, every day, a little more, above my eye. After this intervention, I felt better and finally relieved. But my joy was only short-lived. The disease worsened. The button grew thicker with each new day. It grew more and more and pushed me to the retrenchment. My mother was never discouraged. She fought hard for me to return to a normal life.

My deceased mother.

The time span between the death of my father and that of my mother was very short. I no longer remember how long it lasted. But, in my resentment, it was really too brief. So I became an orphan a second time. Fatherless, then motherless, that was the end of my care.

The hiring of an aunt of hope

After the disappearance of both my parents, my aunt, my father's second wife, took over. It will play, for me, a determining role. Through mountains and valleys, she will invest herself in order to help me get out of my situation. She, too, will eventually pass away. I had the impression that bad luck was hitting me, with devotion.

Beginning of isolation and end of care

In the end, I was left alone in our family compound. In the morning, I would go to the family garden with my little dog, only to come back in the evening. The neighbors of my family home regularly gave me food. My dog had become my best confidant. The garden my supreme place of consolation. In this space, the cries of the birds came to ease my pain. Nature thus became my highest accomplice. I rarely spoke. I observed a lot although people came to visit me at different times of the day.

Departure to Nouakchott

After the death of my parents and all my closest supporters, a friend of my father's came to the village to offer his condolences. The condition he found me in was hopeless. He decided to go with me to Nouakchott in order to deliver me from my horrible fate. Arrived in the capital of Mauritania, we took steps in hospitals, clinics and health centers. It was at the national hospital that I hoped to find the miracle solution. But the doctors confirmed to me that I did not have a rare and very unusual disease. They thought to bring a doctor from Morocco in the hope of curing me. In the meantime, my father's friend who had welcomed me had decided to enroll me in a Koranic school "Mahadrah," while waiting for solutions. But, again, once again, with the looks of the schoolchildren, I was not able to continue my learning. Thus, I stayed at my host's home while waiting for the arrival of a doctor who would come from Morocco.

With a view to passing the time, I concocted my tea all day long. Mauritanian tea, the first glass of which is said to be bitter like life, the second pleasant like love and the third sweet like death. I was helping families who asked me. I was walking around and visiting friends.

Often, alone and in front of myself, in my room, I would cry while wondering how I could be rid of this terrifying crap. Because since the death of my parents, I had not benefited from any care. I prayed to the Lord and put all my trust in him.

The message of hope

The day I had a phone call to tell me that a solution was possible outside Mauritania, it was an immeasurable joy for me.

Cheikhou's objectives

My goal is to get healthy. I have dreams in my life and I want to make them come true:

  • Objective 1: Learn French: write and speak
  • Objective 2: Learn a job
  • Objective 3: Work with the profession that I learned
  • Objective 4: Find my autonomy
  • Objective 5: Caring for my family

Thanks to :

  • Face the World Foundation
  • Team of Dr Gerald FRANCHI at Necker Paris Hospital
  • Association Against Tuberculosis and Endemic Diseases
  • My host family in France and my tutor in Mauritania
  • Without forgetting the solidarity support

Find out more see: actume.org/dons-en-ligne/cheikhouarrivenfrance/

===> Download the testimonial: here
Words of Cheikhou SAKHO in Soninke translated by Ansoumane SAKHO
Proofreading: Oumar DIAGNE, Association ACTUMESeptember 2021