Mercy Ships first met Akou at screening in February. She had a large tumor on her neck and shoulder. Our writer and photographer, Joy and Debra, interviewed her. Akou told them that she has only had the tumor for 5 years, and it has grown steadily over that time. She had several scars on the tumor, which she said were from "natural remedies"....essentially a witch doctor who attempted to cure her of the tumor. Obviously, his efforts failed, only leaving her badly scarred.
I met Akou for the first time with Tom while doing Pre-Op photographs. She was very downtrodden and had a look of despair on her face---even despite the fact that she was finally getting checked in for surgery!! (which should have been a joyous time!)
After Joy realized I was writing about her, she showed me the screening photos they had taken. This was brilliant, I thought!! We've covered this patient from step one: screening! Below are photos taken from the screening, and my favorite: Her bright smile when she received her Card which indicated her surgery date!!! She's IN!!
Akou Kewukpo at screening--you can see her tumor and scars from the witch doctor attempting to cure her.
Akou getting registered at Screening.
Waiting in line. Lots of waiting...waiting....hoping....wishing...waiting...
Inside the screening tents. Talking with a translator.
BINGO!!! There's that smile!
"Best day of my life" -Akou
Five months later, Akou went in for surgery with our Max Fax surgeon, Dr. Mark. Once he opened her up, he realized that her tumor was more advanced that previously thought. It had wrapped itself around several nerves and blood vessels. In order to remove all of the tumor, Dr. Mark had to cut the nerves that ran through the tumor. He knew this would have other affects on her body, but he spent a marathon 9 hours meticulously reconnecting every single nerve he had severed.
Akou was wheeled into D Ward after surgery. When the anesthesia wore off, she discovered that she could not lift her right arm. The nerve damage prevented her from raising her arm. She was confused and devastated. I thought the smile was gone earlier---but it was ESPECIALLY gone now :(
Meza & I talking with Akou after surgery. Visibly upset, she told that she couldn't move her arm. "I carry things all day long--for a living. What on earth will I do?" She was very shaken by the effect of the nerve damage.
Days passed and Akou began coping with the situation. Her tumor, which was removed completely, looked fantastic. But she told nurse Ali..."I am not ready to look at the tumor yet. I am still mourning over my arm."
Then I told her that this picture was on the Mercy Ships website (see blog post here) and that anyone throughout the world could go to the site and see a picture of her. "You're famous, Akou!" She died [of excitement!]. She couldnt believe it!!
Beautiful smile! and NO tumor.
She is discharged from the ward and heading to the Hospitality Center.
It's a good day.
***Doctors believe that if Akou continutes the exercises for her arm, she should regain complete movement after one year. It is a very difficult situation to deal with, but given how advanced the tumor was, it was the only option. If not completely removed, the tumor would have eventually filled her lungs and killed her. We take what we can :)