An International Odyssey: A sick teenager, A surgical drama, A life reclaimed
From Bangladesh to Cape Cod.
It has certainly been a whirlwind few months for Suma Akther, the courageous 17-year old from Bangladesh, who is now – through a series of articles in the Cape Cod Times – probably Cape Cod’s most well-known cardiac surgery patient.
Suma’s international journey began several years ago, when she first met Jane Brooks, R.N. (See page 2). Jane, who worked for ten years in Cape Cod Hospital’s ICU, now divides her time between Cape Cod and Bangladesh, where she helps her aunt Faith Willard run Friends of Bangladesh, a charitable Christian institution helping poor women and children. Jane runs two medical clinics in Bangladesh, where she first encountered Suma. “Her mom said she is sick and she can’t get well,” Jane recalled.
Jane brought Suma to various specialists in Bangladesh who eventually determined that her heart had been permanently damaged by a bout of rheumatic fever. She had severe mitral valve disease. Bangladesh physicians could have replaced Suma’s mitral valve, but that could have resulted in complications down the road, especially if she ever wanted to have children. The best solution – try to repair the valve. For that complex procedure, she would have to go abroad.
Fast forward to this fall.
Through financial support from Raymond Tye of the Tye Foundation, Jane arranged to have Suma come to Cape Cod, to be seen and treated by our doctors at Cape Cod Hospital. Her translator, Shilpey Rosario, came with her. After weeks of pre-op testing, her open-heart surgery took place at Cape Cod Hospital on Oct. 29. Robert Rizzo, M.D., and his outstanding cardiac surgery team spent eight hours working on Suma. Because of the inflamed tissue surrounding her heart, it took a lot of time for the team to access the damaged valve. Ultimately, however, the surgery was a success and Suma was discharged after several days in the CSICU (Cardiac Surgery ICU). She is now on the road to recovery, feeling much better, and will be at Jane’s Sandwich house through the end of the year, before returning to Bangladesh early next year.
She wasn’t here too long, but Suma Akther left an indelible mark on Cape Cod Hospital. Her smile and her courage will be remembered by everyone who met her.
Suma said she will always be thankful for everyone at the hospital who helped her on this journey. For Dr. Rizzo and for Raymond Tye, she had special gifts of thanks – beautiful embroideries Suma made herself with the Biblical passage from Jeremiah 31-3.