Aid for individuals paves way to a new life

Beninese nun has spine operation

by Damaris Walter, Ruth Bücker,  2013/03/01

Sister Catherine Bokini is from Cotonou, the economic centre and seat of government of the West African country of Benin. The 37-year-old woman is a professional teacher and a sister of the Franciscan Order. Currently, however, she is staying in Günzburg in Bavaria, 7.000 km away from her home country, on a journey that will change and improve her life significantly.

Since she was born, Sister Catherine has been suffering from a shifting of the vertebrae, a condition which in medical language is called spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis means that one bone of the spine (a vertebra) slips forward onto the bone below it. Often, this occurs in the lumbar portion of the spine. Due to the disease, the African nun suffers from symptoms like severe pain radiating into both legs, combined with severe back pain. Especially standing is painful for her.

Wolfgang Groß, the humedica managing director, heard about Catherine’s story from a friend of his, the physician Dr. José-Maria Koussemou. The doctor, who is a native of Benin as well, but currently lives and works in the German town of Heidenheim, asked humedica if Sister Catherine could be supported in the framework of the humedica aid for individuals. The answer was positive, so the preparations for her journey of recovery were started.

In summer 2010, the Franciscan nun went to Germany for the first time, where she stayed with José-Maria Koussemou. From that time on, the physician and physiotherapist became the mediator between Catherine, humedica and the district hospital of Günzburg (BKH), which was to play an important role for Catherine’s future.

One and a half years later, on February 23rd, 2012, after a lot of planning, conversations, diagnosis from far and considerations of the different treatment options, Sister Catherine presented herself to Dr. Christoph Grimm, senior physician at the hospital of Günzburg (BKH), in person. Her disease pattern was assessed and plans for operations made. During these two months, she was given refuge at a convent of Franciscan sisters in Dillingen who hosted her for free and assisted her in sorrows and fears until Catherine returned to Benin for the time being.

One year later, in mid-February of this year, Sister Catherine returned to Germany for her presumably last and, at the same time, most significant stay: her operation was scheduled for the 20th of February and after carrying out some more tomography scans and examinations, Dr. Grimm performed the life-changing surgery at about noon of the 20th February, 2013.

The stabilisation of her vertebrae went according to plan and the surgery, a routine procedure, yet still complicated, was performed without complications. When the patient, who had been a bit nervous before the operation, came out from anaesthesia, she was welcomed by three female staff members of humedica. The French-speaking patient immediately gave them a non-verbal, but universal sign: she put her thumb up! She was fine.

After her discharge from hospital, Sister Catherine‘s journey to recovery will continue at the Franciscan convent in Dillingen where she will have regular physiotherapy and kinesiotherapy (movement therapy). The patient will have to learn how to sit and walk in an appropriate position with her stabilised spine. Some days after the operation, standing already works much better, Catherine tells us gratefully and optimistically.

Standing already provokes less pain than before, Sister Catherine tells us five days after her operation. Photo: humedica/Ursula Miller

Thank you!

Catherine Bokini is very grateful for every kind of help, emotional and financial support. She looks to the future full of optimism and looks forward to walking, sitting, standing and lying without pain – to a life without pain.

She would like to express her sincere thanks to the Franciscan Sisters from Dillingen and all those involved at the hospital of Günzburg (BKH). Besides that, her special thanks go to Mr Thomas Düll. On his own initiative, the chairman of the district hospitals of Swabia had contacted humedica managing director Wolfgang Groß and had inquired about individual cases where medical help was urgently needed. Mr Düll immediately agreed to bear the costs for Sister Catherine’s operation. The screws and fixation materials needed for the operation were donated by the Alphatec Spine company.

Furthermore, we would like to thank you, dear friends and supporters, for every donation. Our aid for individuals programme enables people with serious, but treatable diseases, to live a life without complaints. In their homecountry and due to a lack of financial means, individuals like Sister Catherine would not have any prospect of healing.

Thanks to our common efforts, Sister Catherine was able to undertake the most significant journey of her life. The journey to a future free of pain and complaints. Please continue to support us in our efforts to help individuals. Thank you so much!

      humedica e. V.
      Reference „Individual aid
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

      SWIFT-Code: BYLA DE M1 KFB
      IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

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