Toledo health community comes together to help boy with rare birth defect

April 14, 2009 | Features
By Shannon Wermer

Imagine having such severe pain that you’re not able to lie on your back. This is what Ayoub Hamdi, a 14-month-old boy from Algeria, had to go through until he came to Toledo in March for free treatment performed by UT Medical Center surgeons.

Dalila Hamdi traveled from Algeria so her son, Ayoub, could receive free surgical treatment offered by Dr. Azedine Medhkour.

Dalila Hamdi traveled from Algeria so her son, Ayoub, could receive free surgical treatment offered by Dr. Azedine Medhkour.

Ayoub was born with a physical defect that left his spinal cord exposed under the skin near his buttocks, resulting in a baseball-sized tumor.

Dr. Azedine Medhkour, associate professor of surgery and a UTMC neurosurgeon, saw Ayoub’s story in the newspaper and on a YouTube video in which the boy’s mother, Dalila, asked for help.

Medhkour, originally from Algeria, said the people there are extremely poor.

“Ayoub would not have had a chance to keep his leg function and may have contracted an infection and died after surgery had he had the procedure done there. For these reasons, I offered my services free of charge,” Medhkour said.

“Since we don’t have an inpatient pediatric service at UTMC, St. Vincent Mercy Medical Centers’ agreed to allow me to operate there and waived the costs,” he said. “They were very kind and helpful throughout the whole process.”

After Medhkour performed the closure of the spinal cord defect and covered it with its natural layer, the plastic surgery team — composed of UTMC plastic surgeons Drs. Marlene Welch, Timothy Janiga and resident Brian Smith — performed a skin closure flap, which led to excellent healing.

According to Medhkour, the surgery took seven hours and went better than expected. Ayoub is already flexing his knees better than before the operation. With the use of crutches and physical therapy, he should eventually be able to walk.

Dr. Dinia Medhkour, Azedine’s wife, has been the translator throughout this process since Ayoub’s mother does not speak English. “My wife was a huge help, as well as Brigitte Odenthan, another very nice person from the Ronald McDonald House,” Medhkour said.

Through Dinia, Ayoub’s mother, Dalila, said, “I am very thankful to God and everyone who participated and donated their time and effort for Ayoub’s treatment and care. I am thankful for the hospitality and kindness of the Ronald McDonald House staff and volunteers. I am also thankful to St. Vincent’s and UT Medical Center staff … from the doctors and nurses to anyone who came near my son. Thank you all for everything you have done. You will always be in our hearts and prayers.”

Ayoub is staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Toledo with his mom and will remain there for two more weeks until he returns to Algeria. Medhkour plans to bring him back in a year for a follow-up visit.

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