Life-threatening skull tumor removed, grateful patient inspired to help others

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Chidi Tagbo at Beaumont

Beaumont surgeon responds to African student’s email plea

Chidi Tagbo, 21, was running out of time. Nigerian doctors warned he needed medical care very soon – urgently. Left unchecked, his massive skull tumor could result in blindness and brain damage. Ultimately, it could kill him.

Too complex, too risky

Physicians in his native Nigeria were unwilling to take his case because it was too complex, too risky. His family helped him seek medical care outside the country, including India and Dubai.

Said Beckie, his mother, “Everyone told us, a successful surgery couldn’t be done.”

That is, until Tagbo read a story on his Facebook newsfeed about the work of Beaumont craniofacial surgeon, Kongkrit Chaiyasate, M.D., who has helped many patients with little hope. He found the doctor’s email on Google and sent a desperate plea.

Email plea and shocking response

When Tagbo heard back from Dr. Chaiyasate he was shocked. The surgeon agreed to help.

He replied, “Oh my God! I will live again! Sir, we do not have enough words to express our appreciation and thanks. We are overwhelmed with joy! My parents and I are so thankful to you. God bless and be with you all. You are super kind and wonderful.”

Dr. Chaiyasate recalled, “It began as he was reading a story about Tim McGrath in the New York Post. He emailed me directly. I reviewed the case and wanted to help.”

Tagbo told Dr. Chaiyasate, “I was overwhelmed when you offered to help me, because in the past I have written to so many people and organizations worldwide, but to no avail. You have inspired me to help strangers.”

Extensive planning for a complex surgery

While Tagbo and his family began making visa and travel plans, Dr. Chaiyasate began planning his complex surgery. A team of specialists would be needed to ensure its success: a neurosurgeon, Jeffrey Jacob, M.D.; an otolaryngologist, Adam Folbe, M.D.; and craniofacial/plastic surgeon, Dr. Chaiyasate.

Tagbo 3D skullAccording to Dr. Chaiyasate, Tagbo has a rare condition – craniofacial fibrous dysplasia. It is a bone disorder in which scar tissue develops in place of normal bone tissue, resulting in weak skull and facial bones.

Although not cancerous, the large tumor was crowding half of Tagbo’s skull and brain. The right side of his head and face were swollen. The pressure caused his eye socket to be pushed downward and his eye to bulge. If the tumor compressed the optic nerve, it could blind him. He experienced terrible headaches that greatly affected his ability to focus and concentrate on his studies. The tumor also caused his airway to be partially blocked, making breathing difficult.

The plan: in one surgery, the team of three Beaumont, Royal Oak specialists would remove the tumor; insert a mesh skull implant; and transfer tissue to cover the right side of his head and face.

In late October, Tagbo and his parents traveled 21 hours by air from Enugu, Nigeria to Metro Airport, more than 5,500 miles. In November, the specialists met with Tagbo and ordered more images of his skull.

Surgery a success

Tagbo’s surgery took place Dec. 8 at Beaumont, Royal Oak. The six-hour procedure went well. His surgical team removed most of his tumor; improved his breathing by opening his airway; alleviated his headaches, restoring his concentration; and replaced half his skull with a custom, mesh implant.

Said Dr. Chaiyasate, “Chidi’s case is a true collaboration between three surgeons, Beaumont Hospital and a vendor - KLS Martin. Without Dr. Folbe, Dr. Jacob and our administrative team, all of this would not have been possible.”

Tagbo_pre-op -1156_WEB

Speedy recovery

His mother said, “His recovery was fast. Within two to three days, he was no longer taking any pain medication.”

Tagbo commented on how the physical therapists were surprised how fast he recovered from such a major surgery.

One month post-op: his mother has noticed dramatic changes. The one side of his face is no longer swollen, and his one eye no longer bulges.

Furthermore, with the tumor gone, his concentration has returned. This is so important, since he is a student back in Nigeria. He also recently received good news – his acceptance into the University of Nigeria’s Medical School. He and his family are overwhelmed with the support and care he has received at Beaumont, Royal Oak.

Homeward bound

Tagbo is doing so well with his recovery he was given the green light to fly home Jan. 18. Originally, he planned to go home in mid-February.

At his last appointment, Dr. Chaiyasate congratulated him on his acceptance to medical school and said, “We saved you, now you can save more people.”