Ghana boy reunited with family after life-saving Oxford op

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Media captionEthan Suglo's family were glad to welcome him home from having life-saving surgery in Oxford

When Ethan Suglo was born with his organs outside his abdomen in Ghana, his parents worried he may never live a full, happy life. But thanks to the kindness of strangers he has had life-saving surgery in Oxford and has returned to Africa to be reunited with his family.

As the sun set over Kotoka International Airport in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, a minivan pulled up filled with laughter.

Ethan's welcoming committee had arrived - grandmothers, brothers and friends who drove two-and-a-half hours from their village to bring him home.

Image caption Ethan Suglo was reunited with his mother Bless in Ghana

It had been three months since they last saw him, with his mother Bless telling me how "very, very happy" she was, because it was the longest the family had ever been apart.

"They left us and we prayed for them but now they are coming back," she said, relieved.

Image caption Charles and Ethan arrived in Ghana after three months in Oxford

Tearful hugs followed father Charles and Ethan's appearance at the arrivals gate, among cries of "He looks good!" and "His English is really good!"

Mr Suglo tells me: "Travelling for so long and coming back is good, most especially seeing my wife and the other children.

"We've been through a lot. It's going to be a new beginning in a positive direction."

Ethan has exomphalos, which can be fatal but is routinely treated in the UK.

'Been privileged'

Last year, Mr Suglo met doctors David and Jacquie Williams in Ghana and asked them to examine his son.

In March, the couple, from Stretton-on-Fosse, Warwickshire, started raising the money needed for air fares, surgery and nursing care, through the likes of bake sales and marathons, so he could have an operation at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The Willing and Abel charity, which helps children in developing countries receive treatment, also pledged £10,000 to help.

"For the past three months we've been privileged," Mr Suglo says.

"We can thank God and the people of the UK, the surgical team at John Radcliffe Hospital, just everybody who contributed to saving Ethan's life. It's going to give us peace."

Image caption The family threw Ethan a Welcome Home party

We drove back to their home village of Akatsi that night in the dark, so it was hard to get a sense of the place.

But, as the sun rose I was struck by how green the surroundings were, with so much farming in the Volta region and so many lakes for fishing.

Along the roadside stalls of people sold phone credit, food, handkerchiefs, and even coffins.

At a party for Ethan, his compound was full of friends and family who came to celebrate his homecoming and successful operation.

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Media captionEthan has exomphalos which can be fatal

It has given me an insight into what it means to be different and to have a disability in Ghana.

I met one teenage girl who was being driven out of her home because of her severe facial tumours, with her family being shunned.

'Achieve dreams'

Willing and Abel says it's about educating the elders, but the generosity of a Cotswold community has meant Ethan - a young boy thousands of miles away - has been given a chance of a new life.

Mr Suglo says the operation was "to save his life but to also give him a better life", one "starting from scratch".

"It's to achieve his dreams," he said. "He tells us he wants to be Doc. And that's what we call David Williams - he's Doc.

"I hope to see Ethan one day with his stethoscope diagnosing his father. We bought a toy stethoscope for him so he remembers."

With £70,000 raised and counting, the charity intends to help other children in countries like Ghana who desperately need operations.

Image caption Ethan was reunited with his six-year-old brother Collins
Image caption The Suglos told reporter Serena Martin their son could now achieve his dreams

What is exomphalos?

Image copyright Ethan's Lifesaving Surgery
Image caption In the UK, exomphalos is usually treated within 24 hours of birth

Exomphalos occurs when a child's abdomen does not develop fully in the womb.

During pregnancy, the intestine develops inside the umbilical cord and then usually moves inside the abdomen after about 10 weeks.

In Exomphalos the intestines and sometimes other organs, such as the liver, remain inside the umbilical cord but outside the abdomen.

There is no known cause and about half of all babies with the condition will have problems affecting other organs, particularly the heart, lungs and kidneys.

Surgery is essential and takes place in either one go or over several weeks, depending on its severity.

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