Ghana orphan finds hope in N.Y.C.
Surgeries mend hit-run wounds
BY ELAINE CHAN
Tuesday, June 26th 2007
An orphaned African girl who lost part of her scalp and most of her right ear in a 2004 hit-and-run accident is looking ahead to life in America after receiving pro bono plastic surgery at Schneider Children's Hospital.
Adwoa Frimpomaah, 17, spent four months in a Ghanaian hospital, receiving inadequate medical care, after she was struck by a car in her village, according to the missionaries who helped arrange her surgeries.
"When I met her, she had a full cast from toe to hip, open sores, a foreign object embedded in her forehead and three teeth missing," said Jean Valente, who with her husband, Vic, founded the nonprofit group Beyond Our Borders in 2001. "Her bandages had not been changed for two weeks."
The Valentes last July brought Adwoa to Andrew Jacono, MD, FACS, Section Head of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at North Shore University Hospital at Manhasset, who since has performed two operations on her at Schneider Children's Hospital, located in New Hyde Park.
During the first operation, in December, the surgeon harvested the floating rib and cartilage from Adwoa's left rib cage, sculpting and molding it to become the rim of her ear.
Jacono also performed a complex flap reconstructive procedure during the six-hour operation, attaching blood vessels onto the flap that covered part of the ear frame. A skin graft from Adwoa's leg was used to cover the top of the ear
"I was making something out of nothing," said Jacono. "It was like art."
In May, Jacono performed another skin graft to create a natural groove behind Adwoa's ear. He will perform a third surgery in four to six months to remove scar tissue.
Jacono waived his $50,000 surgeon's fee, and the hospital shelved more than $100,000 in hospital charges.
Orphaned at 9, Adwoa had never received formal education. When she came a year ago to live with the Valentes on Long Island, she did not speak any English. These days, she can say simple sentences in English and engages in conversation by way of a translator.
"I want to complete high school and learn to become a seamstress," she said. "I want to stay here; this is my home now."
Adwoa, who is taking English and math lessons at home, is in the United States on a medical visa that expires next June. But the Valentes are pushing to become her sponsors and are applying for her residency.