By Co-Founder, Susan Gustafson
Some of you may remember this excerpt from the FAME Blog. If not, you can read the FIRST part of the story here. Six-year-old Allen came to FAME suffering from severe malnutrition and pneumonia. The malnutrition was the result of a congenital problem, a stricture in his esophagus, that prevented him from swallowing food. Well, life took a dramatic turn for Allen 18 days ago today. He and his Mother traveled to Switzerland with volunteer pediatrician, Dr. Verena Moreno on November 5th, and on November 11th he had the surgery he’s been waiting for his whole life: A resection of the narrowed part of his esophagus and an end-to-end anastomosis reconnecting his esophagus to the stomach. Of course, this journey did not materialize overnight.
The complex surgery Allen needed is not yet performed in Tanzania. We had to find a surgeon and a hospital willing to do the surgery AND we had to keep Allen alive long enough to make it happen. For 10 long months, Dr. Verena and the FAME team have been caring for Allan, treating him when he got sick, providing the nutritional supplements he needed to build strength, and teaching his mother how to mix the F-100 nutritional formula and give it to him thru his feeding tube on a daily basis. Mind you, Allen and his mother have no running water in the poor, rural village where they live. Nothing is easy to keep clean, let alone a feeding tube inserted in the stomach. While only a short-term solution, it was a successful one – one in which Allen’s mother played a central role. She made absolutely sure he received the nutritional formula thru his feeding tube on schedule. She was religious about keeping it clean, and she arranged to bring him in to FAME whenever she had a concern or felt something was amiss. Slowly, Allen began to gain the weight and strength necessary to stay alive while waiting for a miracle. And the miracle finally came. Dr. Verena received word that a surgeon and hospital in her home town of Bern were willing to donate their time, expertise and facility to perform the surgery that would save Allen’s life.
The lastest update from Dr. Verena on November 19th was very encouraging, “Allen is recovering well. He is still in the hospital because he has some drainages, nasogastric tube and IV ailmentation. On Monday they will do an X-ray (Barium meal) to see if the anastomosis they did is functioning well. Afterward the drains and the NGT can be removed and I think mid-week he will leave the hospital. The convalescence will be at my home.”
Allen is only one of many, many children cared for by the FAME team. Fortunately, the vast majority can be treated right here at FAME Medical. We have been able to maintain and grow our “in-house” programs and services thanks to the generosity and ongoing commitment of our supporters and friends. Thank you for helping us care for the most vulnerable among us – in a place where the usual safety nets simply do not exist. You are their heroes and ours.