Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 4 News List

African boy to receive needed help


An African teenager suffering from Von Recklinghausen's Disease -- "elephant-man disease" is scheduled to come to Taiwan next month to receive surgery to remove a large tumor on his face, social work sources said yesterday.

A 15-year-old citizen of Burkina Faso is scheduled to fly to Taipei in early November accompanied by his father, according to Rebecca Wang (王金英), executive director of the Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation.

Wang said her foundation decided to co-sponsor the boy's trip after learning of his plight from reports posted on a cyber bulletin by a young Taiwanese man working as a member of the Republic of China Medical Aid Mission in Burkina Faso.

The Taiwanese, who calls himself "Luc" to avoid publicity, is a graduate of Taipei Medical University. He arrived in Burkina Faso last year to work as an alternative way of performing his compulsory military service.

Luc posted pictures of the African boy on the Internet and appealed for help from the people of Taiwan.

Wang said the Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation -- established in 1989 by Samuel Noordhoff, an American surgeon-philanthropist -- will co-sponsor the boy's trip in cooperation with Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, which will provide the operations and follow-up facial reconstruction work, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has promised to pay for round-trip air tickets for the boy and his father.

According to members of the Chang Gung plastic surgery team, who are renowned for their operations on patients with the same condition from home and abroad over the past years, said the surgery on the boy might be a challenging task judging from the size and scale of his tumor.

A rare condition

* The 15-year-old from Burkina Faso has a disfiguring condition called Von Reckling-hausen's Disease.

* The Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation is co-sponsoring the operation with Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.

In addition to plastic surgeons, the team will also need the assistance of ear, nose and throat doctors and neurosurgeons to carry out the surgery, said Dr. Chen Yu-jui (陳昱瑞), a senior Chang Gung physician who volunteered to take charge of the case.

Von Recklinghausen's Disease, also known as neurofibromatosis, is an inheritable, autosomal dominant disease characterized by disordered growth of ectodermal tissues and a variety of other dysplastic abnormalities of skin, nerve systems, bones, endocrine organs and blood vessels.

According to Luc, the teenager, who lives in the central Burkina Faso township of Koudougou with his farmer parents, is illiterate as a result of poverty as well as his ailment.

After seeking many different means to help his son, the teen's father heard in recent months that a Taiwanese doctor has "magical abilities" in treating difficult ailments.

So he brought his son to Dr. Huang Chi-lin (黃其麟), leader of the Taiwan Medical Aid Mission in Burkina Faso, for treatment.

The youth's facial tumor, which was only a small granule on the right side of the boy's face in childhood, has grown to completely cover his right eye, and now extends down to his neck.

Huang treated the boy to the best of his ability, but finally decided that he required surgery to remove the tumor once and for all.

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