Surgeons at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) have made another major breakthrough by saving the life of a 16-year-old girl after removing a giant tumour from the back of her brain. The tumour was compressing the girl’s breathing and the heart rate centres in the brainstem, making its removal a delicate undertaking. But UTH physicians, who have in the recent past successfully conducted delicate surgeries, were equal to the task.
After a 10-hour operation conducted on Monday, five Zambian neurosurgeons successfully removed the tumour from the patient’s posterior fossa [back of the brain]. UTH head of neurosurgery unit Kachinga Sichizya is proud of the team of specialists who attended to the patient, who initially could not sit or walk. In a posting on his Facebook page, Dr Sichizya thanked God for the successful surgery, describing it as a “dangerous undertaking”.
“To attempt to separate the tumour from the brainstem is a very steep and dangerous undertaking! A careless manoeuvre could end life in a moment,” Dr Sichizya, who is also head of neurosurgery training in Zambia under the Specialist Training Programme (STP), said.
He said the patient, who was referred to UTH in July from Petauke, earlier underwent a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, an operation to relieve pressure on the brain caused by fluid accumulation. Dr Sichizya said the latest operation started around 12:00 hours. “I knew it was going to be a long and difficult day and I did not know how the two zealous young female doctors would cope.
“But after a long day and an operation lasting 10 hours, Bwalya Haangala and Misozi M. Lufungulo were still standing. And they had taken no break for water or food. “Female neurosurgeons anywhere in the world are a rare phenomenon and yet in the little time we have started the Neurosurgery STP programme, we already have two ladies, and they are hungry to learn and to operate, and to simply be as good at it as anyone can be,” Dr Sichizya said. And in an interview, Dr Sichizya said the patient is stable and recuperating in the intensive care unit.
“She is awake, she woke up this morning [yesterday] and she is obeying commands,” he said and asked Zambians to include her and all other patients in their prayers. Dr Sichizya said UTH attends to about seven patients with posterior fossa in a month.
“Tumours in the posterior fossa, especially among children, are very common in Zambia. The major problem is the delay in presenting them to the hospital,” he said. UTH conducts two to four brain operations every week.