Docs dare death to save Ethiopian national

His doctors had given up hope as his condition deteriorated with each passing day. But 64-year-old Worku Hassen, an Ethiopian national, was a fighter. From a losing battle against  thyroid cancer which damaged his spine to a paralytic attack, Hassen braved it all with a smile. His strong will to live and positive approach gave doctors the confidence to put him through a thrombolysis — treatment for clearing blood clots — soon after the surgery for thyroid cancer.

Hassen, an economist, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this year, which spread to his spinal cord, involving two vertebral columns. “The sixth vertebra — known as D6 — was completely damaged by the tumour. And the tumour was exerting pressure on the nervous system. The lower end of the cord was also damaged,” said Dr Sunil Katoch, senior consultant, orthopaedics, Max Healthcare.

As his condition started deteriorating, doctors decided to operate on the thyroid cancer and the spinal defects simultaneously. In an eight-hour-long surgery, the spine was reconstructed using a special type of bone cement and spacer — a device which helps in maintaining the gap between the vertebras. “We first removed the tumour from the thyroid gland. It was a big tumour that was exerting pressure on the spinal cord, thus causing the paralytic attack. He couldn’t walk and his bladder movement were also affected,” said Dr Harit Chaturvedi, head onco-surgeon, Max Healthcare.

Recalling the pain and trauma he underwent, Hassen said: “It was the most difficult period of my life. I was shattered when doctors in Ethiopia told me that they won’t be able to do much and I should go abroad. The cancer was in the fourth stage and was spreading fast.” His son, an intensivist in US, asked him to go to India.

Hassen’s ordeal didn’t end with the surgeries. Three days after the operation, he developed clots in the lungs. His saturation had dropped to 50%. “It was a tricky situation and we had no option but to go for thrombolysis to get rid of the clot. This could have proved fatal as thrombolysis soon after surgery results in uncontrolled bleeding,” said Dr Chaturvedi.

As feared by doctors, Hassen bled excessively in the neck, the part from where the tumour was removed. He was taken to the operation theatre within 48 hours. “It is nothing less than a miracle that he is alive and doing so well. We had lost all hope at one point. It’s been a few months since his surgery and he has made remarkable progress,” said Dr Katoch.

When in India for his last few sessions of chemo and radiation therapy, Hassan was all set to get back to work. “I have been out of work for a long time. Now, I want to get back to my research,” he said.

Read more: Docs dare death to save Ethiopian national – The Times of India


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