Young Ethiopian woman's sight being saved at Swedish Hospital

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 17 at 6:40 PM

SEATTLE – A complex series of events led to 22-year-old Haimanot Kassaye Weldetsadik coming to Swedish Neuroscience Institute to remove an unusual brain tumor that was causing her to lose her sight.  Her doctor says if untreated she would ultimately lose her sight.

“In the peripheral part of her right eye, she couldn’t see a thing.  And that’s when she began to complain, and somebody found out she had this mass,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Johnny Delashaw, Jr.  “One of the easy ways to do this for a patient is to do the surgery through the nostril.”

The soft tumor, the size of a kiwi fruit, originated in the pituitary gland and  was pressing on the optical part of her brain. Dr. Delashaw suspects it has been growing for about five years.   

The tumor is benign, and radiation may be required to wipe out any residual parts left behind.  There will be follow up care in Seattle and continued monitoring back in Ethiopia when she returns in about six months.

But it’s how Haimanot got here that is heartbreaking.  Her friend and cousin Hana died from abuse at the hands of her adoptive parents in Skagit County in 2011. Carri and Larry Williams are now serving 37 and 28 years respectively for leaving Hana out in the cold as punishment.  The girl died from starvation and exposure.

It was when Bainbridge Island-based author David Guterson visited Ethiopia while researching a book on Hana’s story, that he met Haimanot.  Guterson, well known for the book Snow Falling on Cedars, has an adopted Ethiopian daughter of his own and is involved in the Ethiopian community in Western Washington.

Guterson arranged through Representative Derek Kilmer’s office to obtain a six-month medical visa for Haimanot.  He also paid for the ticket.  Haimanot’s surgery is being paid for under Swedish’s charitable care program.  A number of Swedish doctors, nurses, technicians and other staff regularly visit Ethiopia providing training and donating equipment under Seattle Alliance Outreach.

The Ethiopian Community of Seattle is also raising money for Haimanot’s continuing expenses.  You can contribute at  www.ecseattle.org.

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