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Ethiopian Girl Gets Life-Saving Surgery at Sutter Children’s Center

Posted by on Jan 26, 2013 in Cancer, Children's Services, Neurosciences, Our Services, Sutter Davis Hospital, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento | 0 comments

When a happy little girl from a remote village in southern Ethiopia lost her sight in September 2012, her parents took her “three mountains away” to the nearest city, Addis Ababa, where a scan showed that 7-year-old Kalkidan Wondemu Sirbaro had a brain tumor called a craniopharyngioma. A team of Bay Area medical professionals were in Addis Ababa as part of Project Mercy, an Indiana nonprofit that sends aid to Ethiopia, but they couldn’t perform the brain surgery there.

Kalkidan in Ethiopia

Kalkidan with her family in Ethiopia before coming to the United States for life-saving surgery.

However, they did take Kalkidan’s story home with the hope that someone could help. But the help needed to come quickly, as they gave Kalkidan just a few months to live.

News of Kalkidan’s situation reached Sarah Jones, M.D., a family doctor with Sutter Medical Group in Davis, who reached out to Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento. The hospital – home to the comprehensive pediatric hospital Sutter Children’s Center, Sacramento – agreed to donate its services, and Sutter Neuroscience Institute medical director of adult and pediatric neurosurgery Samuel Ciricillo, M.D., agreed to perform the surgery pro-bono. Within just 30 hours, approvals for the surgery and Kalkidan’s pre- and post-operative care were received from Sutter and doctors.

Kalkidan arrived in the United States accompanied by Marta Gabre-Tsadick, the founder/CEO of Project Mercy. The surgery was performed in December at Sutter Children’s Center and was successful. During a checkup on Jan. 23, Dr. Ciricillo gave her the green light to travel back to Ethiopia and said no radiation would be necessary.

Kalkidan and Dr. Ciricillo

Kalkidan poses with Dr. Ciricillo, the Sutter surgeon her removed her tumor, saving her life.

“Kalkidan is a bright girl with a vibrant personality,” says Dr. Jones. “Can you imagine what it must be like for her, a 7-year-old who’s blind, taken from her family, her village, her culture, flown across an ocean and across our great country to meet a brand new family of Americans, and then undergo a huge operation?

“Well, what this means for this spritely girl who loves to sing and clap her hands is that her life is prolonged … for what amount of time, only God knows.” 

While Kalkidan’s sight hasn’t returned, and may not, Kalkidan has better light perception. “We continue to hope and pray for a miracle that more vision will be restored as time passes,” Dr. Jones said.

Meanwhile, Kalkidan was looking forward to talking to her parents by phone for the first time since arriving in the United States.

“I will tell them I don’t have a headache anymore,” she said.

Posted by on Jan 26, 2013 in Cancer, Children's Services, Neurosciences, Our Services, Sutter Davis Hospital, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento | 0 comments