Wa­ters

The Commercial Appeal - - From The Cover -

For the Ayeni family, ev­ery morn­ing is Easter morn­ing.

Ev­ery new day gives them an­other rea­son to cel­e­brate faith, hope, love and new life.

“We are over­whelmed,” Mary Ayeni said.

“God pro­vided for us a way to come to Mem­phis, and peo­ple here have given us be­yond what we need. We don’t lack for any­thing.”

Mir­a­cle and Tes­ti­mony were sur­gi­cally sep­a­rated last Novem­ber, 10 days be­fore their first birth­day, at LeBon­heur Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

The op­er­a­tion was per­formed by a team of 15 sur­geons from LeBon­heur and the Univer­sity of Ten­nessee Health Science Cen­ter.

They op­er­ated for 18 hours to sep­a­rate and re­pair the same parts of the twins’ dif­fer­ent bod­ies and put them back to­gether.

The twins had to wear de­vices that re­molded their pelvises and al­lowed their legs — once splayed 180 de­grees apart — to move to more nor­mal po­si­tions.

They were re­leased from the hos­pi­tal three months ago, but they con­tinue to un­dergo reg­u­lar phys­i­cal and oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy.

“Mem­phis and LeBon­heur and the peo­ple all around us, they also are the par­ents of Mir­a­cle and Tes­ti­mony,” Sam Ayeni said.

“God used them to save the lives of Mir­a­cle and Tes­ti­mony.”

The family has been liv­ing at the FedExFam­ily House since they ar­rived from Nige­ria last June.

They have been clothed, fed and shel­tered, pro­vided for, cared for and prayed for by the com­mu­nity ev­ery step of the way.

When the Aye­nis first ar­rived, Meri Ar­mour, LeBon­heur’s pres­i­dent and CEO, con­tacted FedEx ex­ec­u­tive Alan Graf and his wife, Su­san.

“Meri knew the family would need all the help they could get, given the med­i­cal sit­u­a­tion they were fac­ing,” Su­san Graf said.

The Grafs more or less adopted the family. So did their fel­low mem­bers of Christ the King Lutheran Church in East Mem­phis.

Ev­ery Fri­day, a LeBon­heur so­cial worker gives the church a gro­cery list for the Aye­nis.

Su­san Graf or Kitty Kos­man do the shop­ping. Pas­tor Mark No­ble de­liv­ers the items to the Aye­nis ev­ery Monday.

The Ayeni chil­dren have spent so much time with the Grafs, they call them grandma and grandpa.

“They are pre­cious,” Su­san Graf said. “The en­tire family un­der­stands how blessed they are, and they help all of us be more aware of how blessed we are.”

The family also has been adopted by Pas­tor Yinka Adeyemo, a na­tive Nige­rian, and mem­bers of the House on The Rock Church.

The Aye­nis wor­ship there ev­ery week with other African im­mi­grants.

“They make us feel at home,” Mary Ayeni said.

So do other na­tive Nige­ri­ans such as Michael Ug­wueke, pres­i­dent and CEO of Methodist LeBon­heur Health­care, and Dr. Uzoma Ben Gbu­lie, a plas­tic sur­geon at LeBon­heur.

Gbu­lie was the ini­tial con­tact for the Nige­rian-based Link­ing Hands Foundation, which helped the family come to Mem­phis.

It has been a year since the Aye­nis left a hos­pi­tal in Nige­ria on their way to Mem­phis.

The twins are get­ting health­ier and stronger.

Mir­a­cle looks like she’s ready to walk.

She stood up sev­eral times last week, once for five min­utes. “I stood with my legs around her, but she used her own,” Sam Ayeni said. Tes­ti­mony can’t stop talk­ing. “Oh, Lord, she likes to talk,” Sam Ayeni said. “They all like to talk.”

Mar­velous loves to play with her sis­ters and teach them new words.

“They love to say ‘Amen!’ just be­fore they eat,” Mary Ayeni said. “And they all scream ‘hal­lelu­jah! hal­lelu­jah!’ I want them to grow up with those words be­cause God has saved them.”

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