A lovely feel good story with, hopefully, a happy ending

The Head of Secretariat of the EESC’s Various Interests Group, Marc Beffort, is a serious marathon man. When I write ‘serious’, I mean that he thinks little of running 100 kilometres (I’d love to post his lyrical account of that experience, if he’d let me). To give you a feel of the man, his current aim is to run three marathons, back to back. At tea break during the conference, we had a chat (we had both been out doing early morning jogging in the park behind Sofia’s national football stadium). Marc had told me that he wasn’t going to do the Brussels 20 k unless he could start from the front because he was going to run with a blind man. But when I looked up the results, he had run in a time of 1 hour 18 minutes. So, came my puzzled question, had he run alone, then? No, came the reply, he had run from the front with the blind man, Théophile Nsengimana, and then he told me the most wonderful bitter-sweet story which absolutely deserves a wider audience. Théophile was born in Rwanda. He was blind from birth. When he was four his parents sent him to a big hospital to have his condition examined by the country’s experts. Whilst he was there, his family was massacred, victims of that dreadful genocide. An uncle looked after the young boy. Ten years later, he developed skin cancer. His uncle sold up everything and bought tickets to Europe, to Belgium, where he hoped his nephew could be treated. Théophile’s treatment was indeed treated with some success (he is currently ‘in remission’), but his uncle was unable to adapt to his new circumstances and committed suicide. Théophile was adopted by a Belgian (Mons) family. His ambition is to become a paralympic athlete. He runs very, very fast, but he can’t run on his own. Somebody has to run with him – the runners are literally tied together – and talk constantly to him, warning about every possible obstacle. In the Brussels 20 k it was Marc, who told me it was quite the most exhausting thing he had ever done because, despite running so fast, he had to talk all the time. Now, that in itself would be a wonderful story (and I dare anybody not to look at that photo without shedding a tear – metaphorical at least). But Théophile has not stopped consulting eye specialists. One advised him that they could take out his natural, sightless eyes and put in false eyes so that he would be aesthetically more attractive, which understandably depressed him. But now another, in Liège, has identified the fault as lying not with his eyes but with the nerves that connect his eyes to his brain, and one of his eyes could yet enable him to see. This autumn he will undergo an operation and have an implant placed in his cheek. There is an eighty percent chance of success. Who could not wish this twenty two year-old man the best of luck? He surely deserves it. (And you can see a brief interview with Théo at 8.45 into this piece.)

2 Comments

  1. Peter L Nielsen

    09/06/2012 at 21:22

    Wonderfull story. It is hard out there, but life is worth living when you realise there is gold lysing there at the end of the Rainbow. Fingers crossed for Thaophile and good to know that people still care for people. Well done to Marc and good to tell the story.

  2. Bethany Isenberg

    11/06/2012 at 11:46

    I am speechless but deeply moved and inspired by this story and by the true human elements involved therein.

    Marc will and does surely go much much farther than even his feet can take him!

    GENIAL!!!

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