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Sep 9, 2005

Toddler undergoes surgery to dilate scarred throat

Story PictureThe baby featured earlier in our newscast has to go abroad for open-heart surgery, but another child is undergoing a series of operations right here in Belize City to help him recover from an accident at his home. What caused his suffering is a common household item, something you may never have considered dangerous to children. Janelle Chanona reports on the ordeal one four-year-old is going through, and the efforts to make him well and happy again.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
In July of this year, the Tun family of Chunox Village in the Orange Walk District, made a mistake that almost killed their four-year-old son: they put vinegar in a water bottle. The child found it, and drank most of the acetic acid. Barely able to breathe, he was rushed to the Orange Walk hospital, but after three days was sent home. Over the next six weeks, little Margarito wasn’t able to eat, vomited a lot, and lost almost twenty pounds.

In August, the Tuns were referred to gastroenterologist Dr. Irvin Gabourel at Universal Health Services. Dramatic X-Rays and digital pictures revealed that the corrosive liquid had severely burned the boy’s oesophagus to the point where the scar tissue had all but closed the passageway.

Dr. Irvin Gabourel, Gastroenterologist
“He had a stricture, which is a narrowing of the passage of the oesophagus from, I would say, just below the Adam’s apple four millimetres more or less. Four millimetres in diameter and four millimetres in length.”

This is the Tuns’ second visit to Gabourel who is performing the service free of cost to Magarito’s family. To help the toddler, polyvinyl dilators must be inserted into the little boy’s throat.

Dr. Irvin Gabourel
“Which is introduced through a guide wire that I put into the patient’s oesophagus and through that guide wire, which is a metal wire which will help me to lead the dilator through it. We will then tear the stenosis, or the stricture, and made it open wide. In Magarito’s case, we may have to do this for a very long time, if not for all his life, so this is a procedure he will have to get used to.”

Margarito Tun Sr., Father
“Yes, yes, he knows. He was just telling me that the doctor told him that he was going to open his throat more so he could eat better, that’s what he told me. We are scared for his life, that’s why we are here, for Dr. Gabourel to help us.”

To make the procedure as painless as possible for Margarito, the operation is done under general anaesthesia. Using his endoscopic equipment, Gabourel determines that Tun’s stricture is still far too small for the child to eat normally.

Dr. Irvin Gabourel
“You see the little hole…it done start to close up already right. You can see a little piece of biscuit or something there.”

Over the next forty-five minutes, it will take three different sized dilation tubes to force the scar tissue to stretch open to a mere six millimetres.

Dr. Irvin Gabourel
“You see, it’s almost, almost there, but I can’t push it because I could tear the mycosis and that would be a calamity. So I am happy to inform that Margarito will be eating much better now.”

Margarito’s operation a success, Gabourel cautions the Belizean public to seek medical attention for conditions such as heartburn, acid reflux, or difficulty swallowing to avoid bigger problems down the road.

Dr. Irvin Gabourel
“It’s more insidious in people who are having on a daily basis heartburn. I know people who live on Tums and they think that’s regular, normal. Eventually they will be a Margarito, their oesophagus will become strictured, it will become narrow and they won’t be able to swallow. So these symptoms can be treated early and will prevent you from having chronic complications like the narrowing of the oesophagus.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

The procedure costs around eight hundred dollars, excluding the other supplies and materials needed.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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