Ethiopian girl receives surgery for cancer in eye

January 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
On Thursday, a young Ethiopian girl will undergo life-saving surgery at UCSF's Children's Hospital. The girl has made an incredible journey to get to the United States and she had help from a San Ramon couple who pushed to make it possible.

It's been a long journey from Ethiopia and 13-year-old Belen Henok is anxious to undergo life saving surgery on a cancerous melanoma on her eye.

"You can see all of this has grown over to the other side of the eye and it's starting to hit on the cornea there, right on the edge of the cornea," says Dr. John Turns.

Belen's family sold their only source of income for airplane tickets to the U.S. Her tiny village chipped in the rest.

"There's one car which we all use and that's our one car and we [sold] it and we come here," says Belen.

"Most people in this particular region don't live past 40 years of age. One in five kids don't survive. It's very, very difficult to see," says physician's assistant Jana Turns from the organization Doctors Giving Back.

Turns and her husband, Dr. John Turns, discovered Belen's cancer during a relief mission by the couple's non-profit group called Doctors Giving Back.

"Within two years, it would riddle her body and she would never survive," says John.

But the cancer has not spread and they hope doctors at UCSF's Children's Hospital can remove it for good. The journey from her village of 2,000 people has been an eye opener.

"I was very amazed by the plants and the bridge and the very buildings are very amazing and I like them very much," says Belen.

Belen is positive she'll recover and fulfill her dream to become a doctor.

"Ethiopians are very poor right now and they're in many pains now, so I want to help them because I got help and I'm saved now, so I want to help them," says Belen.

"May God reward them for saving my daughter, bringing joy to my household," says Genet Tibebe, Belen's mother.

Belen's family sold everything to bring her to San Francisco, including a 40-year-old delivery truck they used to make money. Doctors Giving Back is raising money to help Belen and her family recover once they get home.

Doctors Giving Back
7172 Regional St. #155
Dublin, CA 94568
925 833 5442