Miracle patient from Africa reunites with VGH staffJuly 7, 2017
“He looks so different. I couldn’t even recognize him. It’s a miracle,” says Esther Chongo, a nurse at VGH, after seeing a spine patient years later and from half a world away.
Eight years ago, donors flew Tesfaye Anagaw from Ethiopia to Vancouver, where Children’s Hospital and VGH staff, led by Dr. Marcel Dvorak and Dr. Michael Boyd, performed a complex 14 hour surgery, outside of publicly funded surgery time. They repaired Tesfaye’s profound kyphosis (forward bend in the spine), a result of untreated spinal tuberculosis. It was the most severe our had ever seen.
Patient gains & losses
It’s no wonder Esther didn’t recognize Tesfaye now, as he’s back in town visiting the donors and VGH staff. He’s gained seven inches from the surgery, and lost several inches… of hair.
“I did his wound care, managed his medication, bathed him and washed his hair. I remember he had a big afro,” laughs Esther. Tesfaye smiled and laughed when she reminded him of that memory.
Lise Belanger, was Tesfaye’s former case manager and remembers what a good patient he was. “He never complained and always smiled. He was willing to work through the pain.”
“To see a patient who was that critical and to see them walking now, as a spinal nurse, that’s what makes me smile. It’s beautiful,” says Esther.
Tesfaye’s plans for the future
Prior to the surgery Tesfaye was selling gum and pens out of a wheelbarrow. Today he is studying accounting and hopes to one day open a café, things he couldn’t have done without the surgery at VGH.
“I am now equal with my friends and I can have a normal life,” he says. “Thanks to God for connecting me to Gary and Nanci [donors] and to all of you at VGH who saved my life.”
Watch the story on Global TV
Global TV met with Tesfaye and donor Gary Segal. Check out the story on the Global News website.
Did you help care for Tesfaye?
Comment below about your memories of the patient and we’ll send your comments to him.