Local family connects African boy with life-saving surgery


A Lee’s Summit family has been instrumental in saving the life of a two-year old African boy.
Greg and Wendy Nyhus, of Lee’s Summit, moved to Ghana in 2010 to help coordinate volunteer medical staffing and manage finances at Baptist Medical Center in the village of Nalerigu.
Their work at the hospital in Ghana brought them in contact with the Tiah family, whose two-year-old son Clement was battling an apparent heart condition.
Wendy Nyhus was able to connect the family with two American physicians who serve regularly in Ghana: doctors Francis-Flynn Thompson and Ravi Thiagarajan of Boston Children’s Hospital. Their diagnosis resulted in immediate concern: Clement had tetralogy of fallot  – a heart condition that likely would have led to death in childhood.
Not only did the family lack the resources to pay for surgery, the doctors said that no facility in Ghana was equipped to handle the procedure and post-operative care. Despite the diagnosis, the Nyhus’s faith gave them cause for hope.
“I couldn’t explain it, but in my gut I really believed God was going to unlock a door and allow Clement and his family the opportunity to experience something so much better on a grander scale,” Wendy said.
She began searching worldwide for hospitals that would be willing to take the case. At first, the efforts appeared fruitless.
“I sent e-mail after e-mail to hospitals, but I didn’t hear back from any of them,” Wendy said.
Finally, a friend at Abundant Life Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit connected her with Dr. Jose Ettedgui, a pediatric cardiologist in Jacksonville, Fla. He agreed, along with pediatric surgeon Eric Ceithaml, to perform the surgery with financial backing from Patrons of the Hearts Foundation.
After working through numerous challenges to secure a birth certificate, passport and travel visa, Clement, his father and Wendy flew to Florida for the surgery last month.
In addition to the stress of his son’s health, the experience was full of culture shock for the father from rural Ghana. Before the flight, he had never seen an airplane.
The surgery, performed last month at Wolfson Children's Hospital, was a success. Clement and his father returned home ahead of schedule in February.
In addition to the Patrons of the Heart Foundation, the First Hand Foundation of Kansas City provided funds for the effort.
The Nyhus’s ongoing work in Ghana is sponsored by Abundant Life Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit – the couple’s home church – and the George Faile Foundation.
Roy Harryman, director of communications, Abundant Life: rharryman@abundantlifewired.com.
See coverage from First Coast News in Jacksonville: http://tinyurl.com/4o93yon
High resolution image of the Nyhus family
High resolution image of the Tiah family