|Didier - Turtle Boy||Didier Operation|
Didier Andres Montalvo
CMN - Congenital Melanocytic Nevus
This boy wants to be just like any other child his age, but he was born with a rare and life-threatening condition. Six-year-old Didier has a mole on his back which keeps on growing. In his Colombian village they call him Turtle boy. Didier's case has shocked even the experts.
Didier lives in a poor region of northern Colombia, remote from the city. The drug-trafficking and kidnap are rife here. His two sisters and brother, grandparents and single-mother Luz, rarely see outsiders. Didier's father left soon after he was born.
Luz "He never wanted to see him. He didn't acknowledge him at all. But I have the support of my parents."
José, Didier's grandfather constantly worries about his grandson's condition, whether he'll ever be able to inherit the family farm.
José "Didier is like my own son he's always asking me: why do I have this and other children don't? And I say to him son, you are born with this mole and the others weren't – that's the way it is."
Didier "Why do I have that thing on my back? There are a lot of questions I don't know the answers to."
Each year, as Didier has grown the mole has grown too, but it was apparent from the moment of birth.
The family were told that he would have to learn to live with Didier's mole. But, it wasn't long before it threatened to drive them apart from their neighbours. Some responses were tinged with local superstitions. Some blamed the events on a solar eclipse.
On 8 April 2005, there was a solar eclipse over Colombia, Luz is still haunted by the events of that day.
Luz, Didier's Mother
Many doctors have assured us that the pregnancy could not have been affected by the eclipse. But Luz is still tormented by the fear that she may have scarred her son for life.
Didier's mole is now so big that every day life has become a real struggle. As the heat of the day rises to over 100°, Didier's mole becomes acutely uncomfortable unless he's kept cool.
Didier "When I don't take a bath, it gets itchy, it's hot and all…"
The family have no running water in the house, so it's a trek to fetch clean water from the nearest pond. Didier can never be far from home and a normal childhood is proving impossible.
Didier "I want to go to school and study."
For Luz, school is not an option for Didier. He's regularly bullied.
Luz "I protect him, sending him to school in his condition would be really bad for him. The children are ignorant. The call on all kinds of nicknames and that makes him miserable."
Luz and Didier Fetching Water
Didier's mole has always set him apart, now it's causing him physical pain.
Luz "The mole increases in size every day and Didier is getting more and more distorted. I'm afraid it could turn into cancer at any moment."
For Luz there is only one option. Surgical treatment. Didier's mother is now praying for a miracle that someone somewhere will help him.
Deep in the Colombian outback, hours from any hospital Didier's family are increasingly worried about his health and his future.
José "The boy doesn't realise how ill he is."
When he was a baby Didier's mother, Luz, took him to many doctors in search of a diagnosis. But, none had encountered such a mole before.
Expanding CMN Mole
Luz "I felt inside that it was a serious problem… And that it would become worse. But I had no idea it would become as serious as that."
Didier "When I was little, I didn't notice it. But then I grew up and it got bigger, just like me."
Didier was two years old when medical experts in Bogota finally diagnosed his condition as rare CMN or Congenital Melanocytic Nevus. But, a CMN mole as large as Didier's is incredibly rare and the doctors didn't know how to treat it. Luz's concerns only grew.
Luz "The doctors told me… that he could live with his mole… and that there weren't any funds for an operation. I felt I was held captive by this illness… that my child would have to bear all his life."
Just when the family are beginning to despair help arrives from a most unexpected source.
TV Promotion "Do you believe in strange creatures and fantastical and prodigious beings? Did you know that for every one in 8 million of the Earth's inhabitants… One of these life forms exists? This is the fantastic Turtle Boy."
News of the Turtle Boy has found its way to a popular Colombian TV host.
TV host "Conditions like Didier's huge mole… Well, we don't know yet whether we can cure them. His power lies in his ability to let us see the world in a different way."
The prime-time show singled Didier out for attention comparing him to the cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No more a social outcast, Didier is transformed into a local celebrity. In a wave of public sympathy ordinary people from all over Colombia donate money to get Didier medical treatment.
Luz "Suddenly one day I received a call from the medical unit saying that they had everything ready. Of course I felt happy… That everything was happening just like that. They said we should get packing."
With some funds raised and after studying his case, a top hospital in Bogota has offered Didier surgery. It's what Luz always dreamt of for Didier, but treatment will be difficult and dangerous.
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