Right now a Nigerian toddler is recovering from his latest round of chemotherapy at St. John's Mercy Children's Hospital. When doctors here learned about a tumor growing inside the boy, they agreed to treat him for free. It's part of the hospital's mission, and as News-4's Maggie Crane reports, the toddler would not have survived without the local help.
"Good morning, sleepy head!"
Dr. Rob Hanson checks in on his newest patient.
"Who's this guy? Hello!" Dr. Hanson says, while using a teddy bear to get his young patient's attention.
A rare and aggressive form of cancer is attacking Terkimbir Kachina's kidney. His only hope for survival was to leave his home in Nigeria and travel to the United States.
"This tumor grows very rapidly, and he would have survived -- untreated -- for at most another two to three months," Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Rob Hanson says.
That's because doctors in Nigeria were at a loss. They did not have the tools or technology to treat Terkimbir.
"There was no ability to operate on him," Dr. Hanson says. "They don't have pediatric anesthesia or pediatric surgeries. There was no chance to try to identify what this was or to take it out."
But here at St. John's Mercy Children's Hospital, surgeons removed a kidney, and doctors are now pumping intensive chemotherapy through the toddler. It still allows him to play while receiving the life-saving drugs.
Getting here was half the battle. It's the first time Terkimbir or his grandmother have been in the United States.
"I really thank God for the opportunity to be here in the United States to treat my grandchild," Rhoda Kachina says.
Terkimbir's family borrowed the equivalent of several years' income from the bank to make the trip. Now doctors are curing him pro-bono, and Terkimbir's prognosis is now positive.
"I feel very, very happy about how our boy is feeling now," Kachina says. "He's very aware. Before, he could not even eat, could not even play. Now he is happy, going around, so I really appreciate (it)."
There will be little follow-up care available to the child. Doctors say they have to trust that they've done everything they can to make sure the cancer never returns.