When you meet Alemitu for the first time, you don't think that the happy 10-year-old girl with the beautiful smile has such a long and difficult history of illness.
Alemitu has been complaining for a year about severe pain in the upper abdomen and right rib cage. In addition, she always felt weak compared to other children. Her parents took her to several doctors, and she also received various medicines, but nothing really helped her. Eventually, she was hospitalized in Hawassa. There, Dr. Wondmagegn Gizaw's team determined with the help of an ultrasound examination that Alemitu suffers from a cystic echinococcosis. This is a disease caused by the dog tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus), which leads to the formation of cysts, also called echinococcal blisters, especially in the lungs and liver, causing pain and fatigue.
The parasite is transmitted from dogs, sheep or goats to humans. Alemitu, too, had become so infected. The doctors found two tennis ball-sized echinococcal blisters, one in the lungs and one in the liver, and thus the cause of their complaints.
At first Alemitu had to take a medication against the parasite for several months. After delays due to equipment or electricity failure in the operating theatre as well as other emergency operations, Alemitu was finally able to be operated on after six months.
In December 2019, her right lung echinococcal bladder was removed. The operation went well, but the infection by the parasite had led to a connection between the airways of the lungs, the bronchi and the chest cavity (bronchopleural fistula), so that Alemitu needed a discharge tube from the chest: With the help of this thoracic drainage, air and inflammatory fluids were continuously extracted from the chest. Alemitu had to stay in the hospital with the drainage for 6 weeks, then the unnatural connection was healed and the tube could be removed.
Now Alemitu has recovered to the point where the echinococcal bladder could be removed from the liver. This operation was successfully performed in March 2020 by pediatric surgeon Dr. Peter Zimmermann from the Pediatric Surgery Foundation together with Dr. Wondmagegn Gizaw on 12. 03. 2020.
After a few days, Alemitu was finally released from the hospital with her parents, who never left her side during this difficult time. Now she can finally play with her friends again. Next year, the brave girl wants to go to school.
We wish her all the best for her future!