Every year, the U-M Health System sets aside cash to help indigent patients from around the world get specialized care they wouldn’t have access to elsewhere. Doctors donate their skills. The hospital donates the time and equipment, and the area community — churches and schools — raises money for lodging, travel and other expenses.
This year, 13-year old Kelvin Konadu became the recipient of charity care efforts by the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Dr. John Park, chief of pediatric urology at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Kelvin’s case is one of about four or five international charity cases the hospital takes every year, most of them involving children.
Identified by an Ann Arbor couple doing mission work in the African country of Ghana, Kelvin was born with a complex urological defect that made it difficult for his body to rid itself of waste.
Before coming to Ann Arbor, Kelvin underwent three surgeries in his native Ghana — two at age 4, and another at age 6. The three failed.
His mother, 36-year old Florence Okine, a resident of the capital city of Accra, was ready to talk to anyone who would listen about her son Kelvin. When she heard an American couple — a urologist and a nurse — were visiting Ghana, she paid them a visit.
Urologist Carl Van Appledorn and Suzanne Van Appledorn, a nurse, both who trained at U-M, were visiting Ghana on a medical mission through a long-established clinic that was set up by another U-M physician — Dr. Timothy Johnson, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“I brought Kelvin’s file, they took pictures and they called Michigan,” says Florence, who was shocked and relieved to hear the U-M would be able to help. “I fell to my knees. I thought, ‘There is a God.’ I’ve worked for a very long time to get him to the U.S.”
When Dr. Park heard of the challenging case, he thought it would be a perfect one for him and he presented a request to Mott Hospital leadership to accept it as a charity case.
International charity care by UMHS makes up a small part of its overall charity care to U.S. and Michigan patients. About $16 million has gone to help local cases this year. Less than $1 million annually goes to international charity care, the majority of it for children with highly specialized needs and life-threatening conditions.
“The local doctors had all told him there was nothing they could do,” says Park, who did not see it this way. The condition — severe hypospadias — would require him to build a urinary tube for proper urinating ability and fertility.”
The Van Appledorns, who have returned from their trip to Ghana, have been hosting the two since they arrived in January.
Florence Okine says she can’t wait to return to Ghana to talk to people about her experiences in Ann Arbor.
“I will have a lot to say when I get back home,” Okine says. “I’m really, really happy with this hospital and how they treat patients. Suzanne and Carl have been angels. They took us in as part of their family. I’m very, very grateful.”
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