“Turtle Boy” — A Remarkable Journey Toward Healing

Didier is a six-year old boy struggling to lead a normal life in a remote part of war-torn Colombia. He was born with a rare condition, Congenital Melanocytic Nevus (CMN), a particularly unusual brown birthmark. At birth Didier’s CMN lay flat, covering 40% of his body surface and enveloping his back and abdomen. It has since grown outwards, morphing into a giant protruding mole that resembles a turtle’s shell. Didier’s mole now significantly restricts his movements and way of life. Doctors in Colombia are increasingly concerned that the mole could threaten the young boy’s life by turning cancerous.

Didier was born to Luz, a single mother caring for a young family in one of Colombia’s most dangerous regions. Here drug trafficking and kidnapping are rife and electricity and running water scarce. Attitudes to Didier and his mother are tinged with superstition, many blaming Luz for her son’s condition; In a land steeped in folklore, locals believe that Didier’s condition is a result of his mother glancing up at a solar eclipse and thus harming her unborn child. Luz questions whether that innocent glance has condemned Didier to a life as “turtle boy”.

As with all CMNs Didier’s condition is incurable. One in 20,000 children are born with large or multiple CMN, however none on Didier’s scale has been treated before. More worrying still, 25% of CMN diagnosed on the skin are linked to nevi in the brain. In some cases these moles become malignant and doctors are powerless to treat them. Didier’s mother is now desperately concerned for her son whose only hope lies in a complex, risky and costly operation to remove his giant mole.

With the scarcest of economic resources Luz has for years only been able to dream of a better life for her son. However, just as his situation has become desperate fortunes seem to have changed for Didier.  Thanks to a local TV news report, awareness of the “Turtle Boy” has spread throughout Colombia and beyond, unleashing a wave of public sympathy and pledges of money for Didier and Luz to travel to Bogotá to receive crucial medical care and the operation that will transform his life.   Luz’s prayers have been answered.

Because of the complex nature of the surgery the Colombian team have invited a leading surgeon from the UK’s renowned Great Ormond Street Children’s’  Hospital to fly to Bogotá to oversee the operation and advise on the extensive skin grafts to re-build the little boy’s back. It will be a long journey to recovery but finally Didier and Luz can realize freeing Didier of his “turtle boy” stigma and the chance to start a new life.   For the first time, Didier will be able to attend school and his mother will now feel able to have him baptized.

Turtle Boy is a story of a massively challenging and life changing operation and an emotional journey to restore one young boy’s health and a mother’s faith in life.


Watch Didier’s remarkable journey toward healing in Turtle Boy this Sunday, July 8th at 9P et/pt


  1. jackie
    July 8, 2012, 9:23 pm

    My heart and prayers are with this family, I am so glad that Dieder had the mole remove and can have a normal life.
    Lou, your prayers were answer, but never give up on faith.
    Much luck the mole never return to your wonderful son. I hope he has many more happy years in life and learn all he can in school and help others when he grows up.
    He is wonderful boy and you are a lucky woman to have a son like him.

  2. Stacey
    July 8, 2012, 11:51 pm

    Is there a way I can donate to this family? Maybe they do not need the money for the surgery, but I would love to give directly to their family. Please post an update with donation information. Thank you.

  3. joanne
    July 9, 2012, 1:46 am

    Please give details on how to further hekp this lovely family and brave boy.

  4. papac
    July 9, 2012, 2:46 pm

    Being a Grandpa of four boys, one 13, two eight and one 4, I tried to watch the story on Didier last night on television. I got as far as the surgery and I could not watch any more, because it tore my heart out to see this child suffer so much. My respect and admiration to the Doctors, Nurses, the Childrens Hospital in Bogota, goes well beyond any words I can express. Please post a list of “HONEST” charitable organizations that have a good track record of helping other Didiers of the world. Thanks to National Geographic for producing the thousands upon thousands of docuementaries.

  5. Sarah
    July 10, 2012, 1:40 am

    What an inspiring little boy! He is truly a gift from god and has an amazing soul. I watch the documentary about Dieder, his family, and his healing process and was truly humbled by it. He has pureness in his eyes that really catch your emotions! Its wonderful to see the triumph this family went through and how they were all so strong and brave for Dieder. I couldn’t help but cry a few times throughout the story and thanked god afterwards for people like him who help shape others attitude towards life. I am thankful to have had the pleasure of watching this little boy’s story and wish him and his family luck and success with their futures. I know he will touch many hearts throughout his lifetime, as he has already touched mine and he doesn’t even know it!

  6. angela Gonzalez
    new york
    July 10, 2012, 6:20 am

    What a story, I can’t believe how brave this little boy is… and how smart . please please post a Honest way for me to donate to this family and thank you for showing an amazing story.

  7. Emraan Rana
    Lahore, Pakistan
    July 11, 2012, 12:58 am

    God Bless on him and his family although, they are suffering in this condition but I hope it will be fine, INSHALLAH

  8. Densil Grant
    July 13, 2012, 8:39 am

    And i thought my life was hard stay strong dude,jah bless.

  9. Jennifer King
    Chicago, IL
    July 15, 2012, 10:48 am

    To those who were asking for reputable organizations that help people with Didier’s condition, I would suggest Nevus Outreach (www.nevus.org), the American organization and Caring Matters Now (www.caringmattersnow.co.uk) that is working to fund research and assist people with CMN in the UK. These are both fabulous organizations. My son has the same condition as Didier, though not as cosmetically significant, his CMN are on his brain and spinal cord causing hydrocephalus and is a life threatening problem. If you feel moved to donate to either of these groups, those of us whose lives are affected by CMN sincerely thank you.

  10. Howard
    July 15, 2012, 12:37 pm

    God bless Didier. What a sweet and courageous little boy. I hope his troubles are behind him and he can live a long, healthy life!!! Very touching story…

  11. Theo Leon
    Saint Lucia
    July 22, 2012, 8:52 pm

    Such a sad story however with a happy ending. I just want to meet Didier and his family. They seem to be wonderful people who deserve a better life. Is there any means of contacting them??

  12. Mathew bernt
    Palmer, Nebraska
    November 14, 2012, 9:46 am


  13. Mathew Bernt
    Palmer Nebraska
    November 14, 2012, 10:01 am

    thats a sad story my heats broken for that kid

  14. Mathew bernt
    PALMER, Nebraska
    November 14, 2012, 10:10 am

    pore turtle boy

  15. Mathew bernt
    palmer ne
    November 21, 2012, 9:43 am

    I feel so bad for that little kid

  16. Micah
    January 4, 2013, 10:42 am

    This was so sad. But inspiring.

  17. clayton
    March 1, 2013, 10:10 am

    Would love to donate to this amazing child. Does anyone know how i would,is there a fund set up for him?

  18. anna colleen franchetti
    April 23, 2013, 10:39 pm

    very happy for Didier and family, beautiful people. also, nice reminder about the care of the family, the local newscaster, and the Columbian people that when people care to do good things together, with God’s assured blessing, truly great things can be done. we all have much to be grateful for every day from the small things to the works of such as the truly compassionate doctors

  19. Carolina
    New York
    April 23, 2013, 11:10 pm

    I am so happy for Diedier and his family. What a heart wrenching story. Is there any way to donate money directly to him and help?

  20. Estrella Hernandez
    April 23, 2013, 11:26 pm

    Didier is such an amazing little boy.
    His mother is indeed a powerful woman. She has gotten him through this hurdle and undoubtedly will help him through any other he may come to face. Courage and continued strength to them both and best wishes to their family. Jah Bless, Always.

  21. Betty
    South Carolina
    May 1, 2013, 2:26 pm

    Would love to get an update on how he is doing and response to the inquiries in donating to the family and/or respected-legitimate charitable organizations.

  22. Andria M. Simpson-Russell
    January 4, 2014, 9:10 pm

    Having met and spent time with children and families like Didier’s in Colombia I can say, without hesitation, what you see? The joy? Is absolutely real. We worked in a barrio with families such as Luz’ and even without having as much they have more joy and compassion for others and are appreciative yet humble. They do not like accepting charity as charity but when given as a gift of love, compassion, and sincerity they look at gifts from others as gifts from God. I always am inspired watching this episode because it takes me back to my time in Colombia and reminds me that while we may have so much, and them so less, they truly have more than what we could ever imagine.

  23. Andria M. Simpson-Russell
    January 4, 2014, 9:14 pm

    I would suggest, for donations, contacting the hospital he was in in Bogotá. I’m sure they will remember him, also if you remember the name of his village contact a church diocese in that area or contacting the Diocese of Bogotá and they might be able to get more information. I used to have a contact for the Diocese in Bogotá but that was 25 years ago and I’m sure that Bishop has long since retired or is deceased.

  24. Liliana
    North Carolina
    January 5, 2014, 8:29 pm

    I watched this documental last night. I can’t stop crying to the end, not because I was sad, I did cry to see how brave he was, how much love he inspired . How amazing loving family he has, his grand father, grandmother loved hi like their own son, and of course his mother Luz she protect him and love him for that reason she decided not to send hi to school because she didn’t want other kids make fun of him of give him nicknames. She wants to help him but did not have the money. Thank god for the reporter who did a documental in the first place , he never imagined that by doing this he did open a door for this little boy to be helped. This family is very poor but full of love for each other . Thank you to the national geographic for broadcasting this again. I am from Colombia so I do understand when he was talking he is truly a sweet boy . It touch my hearth deeply I wish we can find a way to help this family because his journey has not finished yet. I learned something from this : I will never ever again for the rest of my life will complain about few pounds extra on my body when this remarkable boy carried 11 pounds of pain on his body … How lame I was.

  25. Wilma Yarborough
    July 7, 2014, 1:33 am

    This story of such a courageous little boy and the drive of a mom has touched my heart so. From the moment I I first saw the documentary I felt lead to pray for him and I do……..daily I call out his name in prayer asking God to keep His hand upon him and to richly bless him. Would love to see an update on this precious child.