Giving the chance at a normal life

LOS ANGELES Kofi Saliah's mother said a child with a disability in Africa would have no future. Because of an insect bite, the little boy from Ghana had a serious infection that would have led to amputation. But missionaries from Los Angeles heard his story and brought him here for the limb-saving surgery.

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The day after a 20-hour marathon surgery to repair his right leg, 5-year-old Kofi Soliah gets an okay from doctors. One good sign is that his blood flow is normal.

Kofi comes from a small fishing village in Ghana. An insect bite turned into a serious infection that ate away at his right leg. He was destined to be disabled all his life.

"When I actually saw his injuries and found out they wanted to amputate, I was like, 'No, I know we can help him,'" said Terri Evans Okyere from Life Ministry. "So when the Shriners came, they were just a Godsend."

Life Ministry missionaries brought Kofi to L.A.'s Shriner's Hospital for Children with the hope of giving Kofi's leg complete normal function.

Doctors had expected Kofi's surgery to take about eight hours. But when surgeons got in there and took a look inside his leg, they realized the infection had done more damage than they had thought.

"His leg was really frozen like a cement rock, and we had to dissect down to find blood vessels in there, and that was what was difficult about the case," said plastic surgeon Dr. Curt Cetrulo.

Doctors were able to straighten out Kofi's knee, locate healthy blood vessels and graft skin behind his right knee to give him more mobility.

"Hs graft is taking, his leg is straight, and in the operating room he had good range of motion, and I think his long-range prognosis is excellent," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Norman Otsuka.

Shriner's Hospital provided Kofi's surgery and hospital completely free of charge. Doctors say the opportunity to help Kofi is in itself the reward.

"You get a kid and you get to give him an opportunity that he wouldn't have had otherwise," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nicolas Bernthal. "It kind of reminds you why you got into this in the first place."

Kofi will be in the hospital for the next 10 days or so. His right leg is still shorter than his left. Doctors say he will have to return in a year for more surgery.


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