By Renee Webb
It’s been a little over a year since the Miracle Kids of Tanzania, survivors of a horrific bus crash in their east African nation, left the care of Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City.
Dr. Steve Meyer, an orthopedic surgeon and board president of Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries (STEMM), described seeing the children again as “humble joy.”
“I’m so joyful in that not only did our wildest expectations of the kids’ physical recovery come true, but what I had never envisioned was the incredible impact that this story is having on people’s lives around the country,” said the doctor during a reception held Oct. 22 at the hospital.
The Mercy reception allowed those who cared for the children to welcome their former patients back to the community and the Miracle Kids to thank the medical staff for nurturing them back to health.
“I am feeling so good to come back to America to give thanks to all of the people who helped me and see all of the people who prayed for me. The first time I came to America, I was lying in a bed and now I am walking myself. It’s a great thing,” said Sadhia, 14, whose neck had been fractured in the bus crash. “I physically and emotionally recovered well.”
Wilson, 13, was happy to be back in America to thank the doctors and nurses, “who gave good care to me and other people gave me encouragement.” For him, this is a trip of thanksgiving.
Like the other Miracle Kids, Doreen, 14, was pleased to return. Even though she was the most severely injured of the three and was even paralyzed when she arrived 17 months ago, Doreen also has made a full recovery.
The three youth were the only survivors of the May 6, 2017, bus crash that killed 33 classmates, two teachers and a bus driver. STEMM volunteers who were in Tanzania on a medical mission came upon the crash shortly after it had happened and provided triage. The STEMM volunteers urged Meyer to try to bring the survivors to America for medical care.
Through the doctor’s efforts and his work with Congressman Steve King, Rev. Franklin Graham and the Samaritan’s Purse, the children arrived in Sioux City nine days after the accident.
At the reception, Tracy Larson, Mercy’s chief nursing officer, was happy to see the former patients were not only doing well but were thriving.
“It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that so many caregivers and community members rallied to help support their journey to recovery,” she said. “It’s great to have them back in the community.”
Shelly Kitrell, occupational therapist at Mercy, said she was happy to see the progress of the children.
“They’ve come a long way,” she said. “They are taller and smarter, I’m sure. They still have the joy and the love of the Lord in them.”
While Kitrell had worked directly with the children during their three-month stay in Sioux City, she said they had helped her grow mentally and spiritually.
Meyer has detailed how the many miraculous events unfolded and how God continues to care for his people in the book he wrote titled Answer the Call.
“To be part of a miracle is overwhelming, life-changing,” said Meyer, who stressed the numerous people and organizations such as local medical staff, Mercy and Ronald McDonald House that were part of this love story. “Every time I see these kids I think about a miracle.”
The doctor pointed out wherever these kids go, they have changed lives because of the story of their rescue, incredible recovery, their spirit, their heart and the fact that have embraced the concept of God having saved them for a purpose.
“They are very mature beyond their years, understanding that they are ambassadors for a message. It’s a message of their story, their rescue, their rehabilitation and their return to Tanzania,” said Meyer, who described the tale as a love story – God’s love for his people and the community’s love for the children. “They are really ambassadors for the goodness of God, the goodness of people in America and the incredible things that can happen with faith, prayer and belief in the almighty God.”