When we first met Idriss, he was 12 years old. He came to our house seeking medical treatment for his friend Jean, who had a sore leg. The two boys had formed a bond when they met at a center for homeless children a few years earlier. Jean was diagnosed with osteomyelitis (an infection of the bone) and admitted to Good Shepherd Hospital where over the next several months of treatment, he slowly recovered. Throughout Jean’s hospitalization, Idriss slept on the floor beside him, brought him food, helped him get to the bathroom, cajoled him into taking his meds, entertained him, and otherwise played the role of patient guardian. That was quite a responsibility for a 12-year-old, but Idriss had grown up fast in the year since his mother died and he was left on his own.
Idriss was born with albinism (a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes), and his father had abandoned him and his mother shortly after he was born. In Congo, people with albinism are said to be “people without a race” and they are widely discriminated against and ostracized. The biggest medical threat here to people with albinism is skin cancer.Read More