Wings of Healing
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Africa success story

One Ethiopian woman’s story of how she was nursed from death’s door back to life

Netsanet awaiting life-saving surgery by the medical team.

Our gynaecology team first met Netsanet on their first visit to Ethiopia when they were working as part of a larger charity. She was a young 21 year old woman whose story touched our hearts.

Our initial meeting with Netsanet took place when she was admitted to hospital for an operation. She lived in a rural area and had travelled for 2 days with her brother to get there. We happened to be in theatre with the local surgeons on the day of her operation. She had presented to the hospital 6 months prior to this with the compliant of abdominal swelling and pain. An ultrasound had shown large tumours on both of her ovaries and the local doctors had booked her for an operation to remove them.

Our lead gynaecological surgeon, Mr Onsy Louca was asked to perform Netsanet’s operation as the local team suspected she may have some form of malignancy (cancer). In Ethiopia there are no specialists in gynaecological cancers and management of these conditions is normally limited by the skills and training of the surgeons who have not been trained in this specialised area. Unfortunately our suspicions were confirmed during Netsanet’s operation when we found an advanced ovarian cancer.

In order to give her the best chance of survival we needed to perform a hysterectomy.

Removal of both ovaries and as much of the cancer tissue as possible. She was just 21 years old at the time and did not have any children.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments are not available in Ethiopia and treatment of cancers like Netsanet’s is usually limited to surgical removal. With an ovarian cancer like hers we knew that Netsanet would die without chemotherapy. The whole team were hugely affected by her story and decided we needed to do our best to help her.

Once back in the UK the team set to work and organising for Netsanet to travel to Egypt to undergo chemotherapy treatment.  She was able to take a relative with her and was given an apartment to live in and financial support during her stay. She spend 6 months in Egypt undergoing her treatment which thankfully she coped with really well. Tests and scans after the chemotherapy showed that the cancer was in remission.

Netsanet is now back in Ethiopia.

She’s doing really well and feels great. She was able to finish her college course and is living in the capital Addis Ababa, working in a school owned by a friend of the charity. We were able to meet her again in May 2012 and it was fantastic to see her looking so well. She is in the process on learning English and we hope in due course she will work for the charity as an interpreter.

There are many many more women in Ethiopia like Netsanet who need treatment for cancer and other complex conditions which cannot currently be offered in the country. Sponsoring treatment in other countries is of course expensive and it’s very hard to single out those who will benefit most from treatment as there are so many we would love to help. However in addition to our other work the charity will be trying to sponsor more women like Netsanet. We can only do this with the help of donations. Netsanet’s story shows how the charity can use your money to change lives.