Wednesday, May 21, 2003 – York Daily Record
Local Nurse Opens Her Heart and Home: A Man from Ecuador Returned Home Tuesday After An Operation That Helped Him Eat again.
By Jennifer Nejman, Daily Record staff
Segundo Apolonio Chicaiza-Tixi doesn’t remember what he had for lunch in York Hospital about two weeks ago. But he devoured it. He ate so quickly that he got stomach cramps. The 23-year old man from Riobamba, a little town in the mountains of Ecuador, won’t forget the first time he had been able to eat normally since mid-November.
On April 29, doctors at York Hospital removed his scarred esophagus, the muscular canal that drops from the throat to the stomach.
They tunneled a passage through Chicaiza-Tixi’s chest and pulled his stomach up to his neck to replace his esophagus so he could ear properly, an operation usually done for cancer patients.
Chicaiza-Tixi had damaged his stomach unintentionally. On Nov. 15 he was hanging out with friends when he sipped from a bottle, thinking it was soda.
He knew immediately that it wasn’t. The liquid was an alkaline –cleaning substance. His friends hadn’t intended the joke to go so far, Chicaiza-Tixi said. They didn’t think he would drink it, he said.
Through a Spanish interpreter last week, Chicaiza-Tixi talked about what happened. He described the burning, painful sensation that traveled down his throat. His brother took him to two hospitals, but Chicaiza-Tixi decided not to have any surgeries because doctors told him the surgery was risky, and he might not survive it. So he continued to drink a little milk and used IVs for nourishment. His weight dropped to 70 pounds. Since the operation at York Hospital, he has gained back 15 pounds.
In February a group of doctors and nurses with Ecuadent, a Baltimore-based organization, had traveled to Ecuador to perform simple surgeries. Some of those who made the trip were from York County. Chicaiza-Tixi heard about the doctors from a person in his village, and his brother brought him for treatment.
Laurie Foley, a York Hospital nurse on the trip, was outside the hospital when Chicaiza-Tixi arrived. He hadn’t eaten in seven days. He couldn’t swallow his own saliva.
At first they thought he was a child because he was so small.
“I knew he was very sick, right away,” she said. “I knew what he needed was thoracic surgery.” But the complicated surgery couldn’t be done in Ecuador. No specialists were on the trip. So doctors put a catheter directly to Chicaiza-Tixi’s stomach so he could eat.
Foley cared for him while he recovered. They left two cases of baby formula and told him to grind up fish and push it through the tube for nourishment. The day after Foley returned to the United States after the 10-day trip, she started working on a way to get Chicaiza-Tixi more help. She asked around the hospital to see if anything could be done to help the man she met in Ecuador. She enlisted the help of doctors at the hospital, including Dr. Vasudevan Tiruchelvam, a general surgeon and president of the York County Medical Foundation.
The foundation raises money to perform surgeries on children each year and does charity work locally. Tiruchelvam had been on the trip but hadn’t seen the man because he was with other patients.
On Easter Sunday, Foley picked up Chicaiza-Tixi and Dr. Boris García, a surgeon from Ecuador. She set up beds in her living room for them.
Dr. Bradley Levin, a cardio-thoracic surgeon at York Hospital, performed the operation.
Levin said his patient is doing well. “He’ll be able to eat everything and anything. He’s already eating regular chow now.” Chicaiza-Tixi said he is grateful and “blessed” for the help he received. Foley turned his dining room into a boarding room so Chicaiza-Tixi would be able to recover in her house in Dallastown without having to climb too many steps.
He and the Ecuador surgeon left York County for home Tuesday. When Chicaiza-Tixi returns home he hopes to begin working as a carpenter again.