Fri, Nov 16, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Woman with elephantiasis set to go under the scalpel

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

A 45-year-old Peruvian woman suffering from elephantiasis will undergo an eight-hour operation today at Kaohsiung's E-da Hospital.

Maria Rosario Razzeto Tasso's right leg began to swell 26 years ago and now weighs more than 50kg. She suffers from primary congenital lymphodema, a hospital press release said.

Her enormously swollen right leg means she is unable to work, is unsteady when she walks and cannot wear regular shoes.

Despite two operations, acupuncture treatment and herbal medicine, Tasso's condition has continued to deteriorate.

Her case first came to the attention of Samir Mardimi of the Mayo Clinic in the US while he was on a lecturing tour in Peru. Mardimi, who once interned at E-da Hospital, passed information about her case on to the hospital.

The hospital, which took up Tasso's case on humanitarian grounds, will assume all associated costs -- including travel expenses -- which will add up to an estimated NT$2 million (US$62,000).

Tasso, accompanied by her son, arrived in Taiwan on Nov. 9.

Upon arrival, she was found to have excessively low blood albumin levels. She was given antibiotics and an intravenous nutrient drip in preparation for today's operation.

E-da superintendent Chen Hung-chi (陳宏基) will perform the surgery.

In addition to his administrative duties at the hospital, Chen is a plastic surgeon who specializes in elephantiasis.

Chen is well known for having pioneered an operation that uses part of a patient's own intestines to replace damaged sections of the oesophagus.

The complex surgery means that in addition to Chen, the hospital has had to assemble a team of specialists.

The hospital said that if the surgery and recovery process go according to plan, Tasso could return to Peru in one or two months. If the surgery is a success, her legs will be the same size and she will be able to walk normally.

The condition is not expected to recur after surgery.

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