Duhamel and his parents when we visited PAU
Duhamel and his parents when we visited PAU

Last year my cousin Duhamel came to Port Moresby for a major and life altering medical procedure. He had a condition called imperforate anus. He was born without an anal opening and had a temporary opening surgically done on his abdomen to allow him to remove waste.

According to Michigan University’s Department of Surgery website, the abnormality or defect occurs in one in 5,000 live births with males twice more likely to have it and it is still unknown what causes it.

The birth defect was discovered soon after he was born and a tube was inserted through his nose for temporary relief. This was later followed by a surgical procedure to create an opening on his abdomen. The doctors told his parents that he was too young for a procedure to create an anal opening so he had to wait until last year when he the timing was right.

Initially they (the family) had been offered to be referred to Goroka. However, his father being a coastal man and

Duhamel at the national parliament
Duhamel poses under the bust of Sir Mekere Morauta

having heard the stories of bloodshed in the Highland region had instead chosen to come to the city. I’m also guessing the father actually wanted to see the city once in his life and used this as an excuse. Anyway, they were then referred from Lorengau General Hospital to Port Moresby General Hospital (POM Gen).

The surprising thing about this courageous young boy is the way he acted. He had lived his whole 6 years of life in a hospital environment and found the country’s largest hospital not as disgusting as you or I would find it. He felt at home and being an active and vibrant kid most patients often mistook him for a visitor. He was as carefree as any kid would be and left all the worrying to his parents.

His parents, Aunty Diana and Uncle Joseph were faced with a lot of negativity. Firstly, the cost of coming and staying in the city was very hard considering they both were simple village folk. Fortunately, while waiting for their son to time to come for surgery, Aunty managed to sell enough Manus baskets and raised enough money to cover their expenses. Another thing they faced was the stigma associated with such a condition.

This condition was very rarely seen in my village and when it happened, the people, being superstitious, assumed it to be the work of evil spirits. They tried to convince them to try witchcraft and sorcery but Aunty and Uncle stood fast to their religious beliefs. Some people even suggested that Duhamel would not make it. Oh, how wrong could they have been?

Duhamel in the Orchid Gardens at parliament.
Duhamel in the Orchid Gardens at parliament.

Today, Duhamel has a perfectly working toilet system and is in perfect health. I went to the village last November and he came greeting me with his large smile and laughter. I could see for him it was not a big deal but little does he know about the journey and sacrifice his family made so he could live a better life in the future.

Duhamel's temporary anus.
Duhamel's temporary anus on his abdomen. He used this to pass solid waste until his surgery.