Subject: Kiwis mourn death of tumour surgery toddler

Kiwis mourn death of tumour surgery toddler

By AMANDA FISHER - The Dominion Post

Last updated 05:00 16/04/2009

An East Timorese toddler who survived life-saving surgery to remove a giant tumour has died after a bout of dysentery on his return home from Wellington.

Alex Gonzaga, 17 months, died on February 4, three hours after his family took him to a witchdoctor for help when his condition worsened.

He had been treated at Dili Hospital several days before and was discharged after doctors said he would get better.

Brendon Bowkett, the paediatric surgeon who led the surgical team during his tumour operation at Wellington Hospital in October, said Alex was a lovely boy and he was saddened by his death.

"This is a consequence of the country and the standard of care that's available for kids who get sick," he said.

Alex's death is thought to be unrelated to the 3.3-kilogram benign tumour cut from his 11kg frame.

John Bishop, the director of the Port Nicholson Rotary Club, which helped to organise Alex's mercy mission through the Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children programme, said there was no way to verify the cause of death as Alex was buried the day after he died.

"The brutal reality is that no one in authority in East Timor cares," Mr Bishop said.

The operation had been a success and had given Alex a new lease of life.

He took his first steps eight days after the operation while recovering in Wellington.

"We were grateful that a small difference was made to the quality of his life in the short time he was alive," Mr Bishop said.

"We find comfort in that small difference."

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