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Surgery helps seal African child’s abdomen, future

By Carole Bartoo
January 2011

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Grace Dobor, the sixth child of CeCelia and David Dobor, a traveling minister, was born in a small village in Liberia with her intestines and part of her liver outside her body at delivery. Village officials, feeling superstitious about the defect, advised the parents to let her die, but her parents steadfastly went in search of answers for their daughter.

When Grace was 5 weeks old, a Chinese doctor who had come to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, to offer volunteer medical care, agreed to operate and closed the baby's skin over her intestines to prevent infection. But more surgery would be needed to prevent the risk of loops of bowel becoming entangled and cutting off circulation, a potentially fatal side effect.

Fate intervened. Ginger Moore, a Goodlettsville, Tenn., resident and member of a Christian women's ministry, traveled to Liberia in June for a speaking engagement. CeCelia stayed after hearing her speak to tell her about her youngest daughter's plight. Moore was amazed by Grace's story and determined she would find a way to get the baby's surgery donated in the United States.

Within a few weeks, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt had agreed to donate Grace's care, and surgeon Wallace “Skip” Neblett, M.D., agreed to perform the procedure.

The surgery took place Oct. 21, 2010, and was a success. Neblett and senior Pediatric Surgery Fellow, Tom Rauth, M.D., neatly tucked her intestines and liver into her abdominal cavity and closed everything up.

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