It was as if not being able to swallow for almost two years following accidentally ingesting of caustic soda, used for soap manufacturing by a number of small scale industries, wasn’t enough then came the most life threatening of all, the dreaded sepsis following surgery. But Papa J wins all.

Like any other kid playing around in his neighborhood he came across a bottle filled with clear water-like solution, he could not resist and in an attempt to quench his thirst quickly grabbed it and gulped down. Little did he know that from that time on he had to fight for his life!

Affectionately called Papa J by his mother he had to endure weeks in hospital to recover from the acute damage to his food pipe following the chemical injury sustained. Eventually unable to eat his doctors put in a feeding tube through his abdomen – avoiding his mouth, throat and food pipe.

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After almost 2 years he was brought back for surgery so that he can eat again via his food pipe. The surgery cost over 15,000 Ghana cedis (3500 US dollars). Thanks to American Relief Centers this surgery became a reality.

Even though the cost of surgery is out of reach of many Ghanaians accidental chemical injuries are so common. Sadly it affects the low income families who are trying so hard to make ends meet. It is also almost 100% preventable! Prof Sampson Antwi this week stressed the need for soap making cooperative groups to address the issue of prevention.

The pediatric surgery team of KATH led by unassuming but extremely hardworking Dr. Michael Amoah usually do one such surgeries every three weeks. He says “there are backlog of children with similar condition who do not have the funds to pay for the surgery”. In spite of this some philanthropist and organization are working closely with Pediatric Surgery Unit at KATH to provide sponsorship.

Papa J by all account fairly made it through this major surgery involving removing part of his small intestines and link to the upper part of the wind pipe to the stomach. But had to battle severe lung infection after the surgery and spent 10 days on PICU where he was on life support machine and other treatment.

Eventually, he won all the challenges that faced him. Little Steps Foundation is proud of the work Dr Amoah to ensure that all children have equal opportunity for the best available treatment.

LSF add its voice to the call for cooperative unions and associations to take it upon itself to educate its members on hazards of soap making trade. This will ensure reduction in the accidental ingestion of corrosive chemicals.

Photos and story published with parents permission.

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