A little girl in West Africa’s Ivory Coast is now able to walk and run, thanks to the efforts of health professionals and volunteers in the Miami Valley.
Seven-year-old Jeanne Kannon was born with a deformed left leg, which made it extremely difficult for her to walk. An Indiana charity, Children’s Medical Missions West, flew Jeanne to Ohio to be fitted for a prosthetic leg this spring.
But when Jeanne arrived — by herself, speaking only French — it became clear that she could not be simply fitted for a prosthetic. She would first need reconstructive surgery.
Her host family, Amy and Ken Booher of Covington, contacted Dr. H. Brent Bamberger of Orthopaedic Association of Southwest Ohio. Bamberger recommended his colleagues and partners Dr. Safet Hatic and Dr. Chad Weber, who practice in Dayton.
“He directed them to me, since I’m a specialist in foot and ankle surgery,” Hatic said. “Jeanne had a fairly unusual birth deformity, a type 2 congenital hemimelia, which we would not see in many 6- to 7-year-olds in the U.S. It left her with a non-functional foot and ankle; her knee was involved as well. We had to be very thoughtful and fit for a prosthetic for a growing child.”
Dr. Lynne Hawley of Family Health, a community health center in Greenville, provided all of Kannon’s pre-surgery care, including vaccines and dental visits.
“When Jeanne came here, we didn’t know her medical history. She spoke only French,” Hatic said. “We had this sweet little girl with no history. Lynne got her up to speed medically.”
Kannon proved a quick study of English, learning the language during her five-month visit. A friend of the Boohers, who is a French professor at Sinclair Community College was a big help in providing translations for the child.
“A big concern for me was that she understand what we were going to do,” Hatic said. “We really leaned on Amy and Ken’s friend to help us with that communication.”
Wayne HealthCare in Greenville donated the facility and staff for the surgery. The procedure - which was essentially an amputation of her left leg from the knee - went smoothly.
“Dr. Weber and I did it in such a way that there’s still growth potential, through her femur,” Hatic said.
Karl Burk, owner of Action Prosthetics in Greenville, fit Kannon for her prosthetic, which provides her with an artificial knee, ankle and foot.
“Kurt was instrumental to getting the prosthetic. She is the only person in the U.S. walking in this version of the foot,” Hatic said. “You’d think a 7-year-old would be afraid, but this girl was donning and doffing the prosthetic from day one. She was a great patient.”
Therapists at Western Ohio Physical Therapy in Greenville worked with Kannon to help her learn how to walk with the prosthetic. It took her about three weeks to get back up on her feet.
“She was running in my office six weeks post-op,” Hatic said.
On Sept.10, Kannon flew back to her home in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
“She was excited to go home and show her family her new leg,” Hatic said.
Burk armed her with additional fittings for her prosthetic to give her something to grow into. The one she has should last until her early teens.
“We hope they’ll have the facilities and resources to help her in Africa. We know she is from an urban area,” Hatic said. “If she ever needs anything in the future, we told her we’d try to help.”
This was Hatic’s first experience working with Children’s Medical Missions West. He said he’d be happy to get involved again.
“It’s amazing to see how everyone in Darke County came together to help this girl. I’m a Darke county resident myself,” he said. “It’s nice to know people in the community are helping out in that way.”
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