Fifteen-year-old Sampson from Liberia and 16-year-old Seth from Wisconsin are encouraging one another as they walk through health challenges.
A year ago, the Bayles family donated funds to bring three children from Mongolia to the U.S. for heart surgery through the Children’s Heart Project, a Samaritan’s Purse program. Their 15-year-old son, Seth, became good friends with one of the three, 14-year-old Batbileg. Although they had grown up worlds apart, the boys shared a close connection—they both needed Mayo Clinic.
Seth has a rare autoimmune disorder. His symptoms first manifested in 2007 when he was 7 years old. Since that time, doctors have worked tirelessly to find answers, eventually referring him to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Seth and his mother, Julie, now make regular trips to Mayo from their home in Wisconsin for his ongoing treatment.
When the Bayles first heard about Sampson, a 15-year-old Liberian with a large facial mass called neurofinroma plexiform, from Greta Van Susteren’s social media, they immediately began to pray for him. Van Susteren worked with Samaritan’s Purse to find Sampson and bring him to the U.S. for medical treatment, also at Mayo Clinic.
On the day of Sampson’s first appointments, Julie and Seth were also at the hospital for Seth’s routine treatments. Because of their connection with Samaritan’s Purse, they were invited to meet Sampson. They picked up a few items from Walgreen’s to give Sampson, including a Star Wars Snuggie and action figure, and the two youngest Bayles gave up the matchbox cars they had received for Christmas.
Sampson had just finished a two-hour MRI before meeting the Bayles. Despite the long day and a case of culture-shock, he was happy to meet them.
“I kind of held out my arms for a hug, and he was so receptive,” Julie said. “He just grabbed ahold of me and held onto me for quite some time. Everybody was kind of shocked. It really moved me.”
The Bayles gave Sampson the gifts they had bought for him. He immediately began playing with the cars and action figure. Although the Bayles didn’t know it when they bought the Star Wars items, Sampson has been enjoying the movies at his host family’s home in Minnesota.
In Liberia, many people believe that Sampson’s facial deformity was caused by witchcraft. Although people in his village are used to seeing him, he has been ostracized because of the way he looks. When he received a true diagnosis at Mayo Clinic, he said, “Glory to God.” Because of his struggles, he, like Batbileg, was able to relate to Seth.
“I know that Sampson, most of his life, has just dealt with people looking at him from the outside, and I know that’s hard on him,” Julie said. “But I explained that Seth’s disease is all over the inside of his body, and although it’s not as visible, he does understand suffering.”
Although most of Seth’s symptoms are internal, he does wear leg braces and walks with a cane. Because of their connection, Seth was able to encourage Sampson through his journey.
“When I was younger, there were a lot of kids that called me robot legs and teased me a lot about the braces and the cane,” Seth said. “God has gotten me through a ton of stuff. I told him to just rely on God, and He will get you through everything.”
Sampson will continue staying with a host family while he’s preparing for and recovering from surgery in Minnesota. This weekend, Julie and Seth are going back to Minnesota to visit with Sampson again and encourage him. Seth showed Sampson a video of himself playing the drums, and Sampson was interested. This time, Seth is taking his drum set with him so that Sampson can play them.
The Bayles are also continuing to raise money for the Children’s Heart Project. All the eighth graders at Seth’s school decided to help with the fundraiser through a bake sale and dodgeball tournament. The fundraiser is still ongoing, and you can donate to it online.
Seth hopes to one day be a chaplain at Mayo Clinic and share his story to encourage other patients. Meeting others like Sampson who have endured hardships is good practice for his future ambitions.
Please continue to pray for Sampson throughout his journey in the U.S.