No More Hopeful of Pursuing Medical Profession Owing to Poor Health

…Story of an 11-year-old Liberian child who lives with brain tumor

MONROVIA-Little Samuel Sawah, Jr., 11, lives with his grandparents in Congo Town, Monrovia. He’s the 4th of five children mothered and fathered by Ms. Jacqueline Youjay Toe and Samuel Sawah, alias ST, a former footballer, who represented River Cess in national county sports meet football.

The child has a swollen stomach and sits quietly in his community daily. He doesn’t play around with his peers. Inserted in his system is a shunt or tube by a group of visiting neurosurgeons at the JFK Memorial Hospital as a precautionary health measure until an operation to remove the tumor is executed. His vision appears blurred. One of his eyes seems smaller, apparently owing to pressure from the tumor. The child is now 11 and is a 2nd grader. The tumor was first noticed when he was just 7. This is a child with a strong desire to become a medical doctor “for the purpose of helping the poor”. The mother, Jacqueline, informed an interview during the weekend that her son developed the tumor while in Cestos, River Cess. According to her, the condition was noticed when he had gone to buy biscuits at a community neighbor’s business center. She informed a team of journalists that upon receiving the biscuit from the seller, the child pointed the money in an opposite direction, instead of delivering it to the lady who had served him. When the woman asked while he wasn’t giving the money to her directly, he shockingly said he couldn’t see.

“This who sickness business started in River Cess when Samuel went to buy biscuits. When the woman gave him the biscuit, he pointed the money far from the woman. When she asked, my son said he couldn’t see. He was blind”.

Jacqueline narrated that he was immediately brought to Monrovia to seek medical care, but was earlier told by medical doctors that the boy would not see anymore. It was through the intervention of a spiritual healer that the child regained his sight through the application of coconut water, this is according to the mother.

“When we brought him to Monrovia, the doctors said he would not see again. I became so troubled. I took him to one prayer man who applied young coconut water to his eyes for a few days, and he got his sight back”.

The mother said Samuel was doing well until he developed a headache that made him uncomfortable. According to her, the boy lost appetite and sleep. She said he was taken to government run John F.  Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia for diagnosis purpose. The mother informed that the boy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but said an operation to have it removed cannot be done in Liberia, and recommended he be flown abroad. Jacqueline mentioned that a shunt was inserted between the brains and his stomach to facilitate the free flow of fluid until the operation is done.

“So, we took him to JFK to find out what was happening. At the hospital, they informed us that he has a brain tumor. They told us they don’t have the kind of equipment needed to do the job here, so doctors planted some kind of tube in his stomach until the operation was done. They advised us to take him abroad. When we did some checking we were told the best place they can do that kind of operation is in India. We found out that it would cost not less than US$15,000 (fifteen thousand United States dollars), including the operation and other associated expenses.

The young mother, in tears, said raising that money was something very difficult for the family, thus sending out an SOS call to the Liberian government, people of goodwill and humanitarian organizations to save her son, as any delay in performing the surgery could lead to medical complications and probably death.

“As you can see, I can’t afford that money. I’m afraid if nothing is done now, I will lose my son. I don’t want him to die. I’m appealing to the president, the First Lady, the vice president, the speaker and president Protemp, lawmakers from my county and people of goodwill to help me. I want my son to go to India for this operation”.

She continued: “Samuel doesn’t go to school now. He is home every day for fear that anything could happen to him while on campus. Anybody could push him and if he falls to the ground, his condition could get worst”.

When asked what he wanted to become in the future, the ailing child said he wants to become a medical doctor to help struggling people who cannot afford to foot medical bills.

“I really want to be a medical doctor. I want to help people who are suffering”.

The medical report from the JFK, compiled by Dr. Sia Wata Camanor, Chief Medical officer, reads:

Diagnosis: Symptomatic Tamural (Probable Craniopharyngioma) Hydrocephalus

Investigations: Brain CT and MRI scans, complete blood count, ESR, CRP, INR, serum electrolytes.

Management: Initial conservative management. He was advised to have surgery to reduce the intracranial hypertension: Ventriculoperitoneal shunt. The surgery was performed on November 15, 2022 after clearance from the anesthetic team. The surgery was successful.

Outcome: Regression of the symptomatology

Prognosis: Reserved

Remarks: He was discharged on November 29, 2022 and was required to do follow-up visits on an outpatient basis for clinical, laboratory and cardiological follow-ups. A consultation in Pediatrics was also advised.

Key Recommendation: On being informed of the resource limited setting for such a case (Craniopharyngioma) at our centre, we recommend that the client attend an equipped medical facility with a higher intensive care and surgical expertise out of Liberia. A medical escort is not needed in order to have the patient transferred to another facility for further management.

What is brain tumor? A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in the brain or spinal cord. Many brain tumors are able to disrupt the function of the brain. Others, however, are less harmful.

In benign tumors, the mass of abnormal cells does not contain cancer cells. Benign brain tumors grow slowly and tend not to spread from the original growth site. They are also more common than malignant tumors.

In fact, according to the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA), around two-thirds of all new brain tumors are benign.

Malignant brain tumors contain cancer cells and tend not to have clear borders. These can grow rapidly and spread to other parts of the brain, which makes them more dangerous.


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