A 39-year-old woman is fortunate to still be alive after a 30-kilogramme tumour in her belly was surgically removed by medical professionals at Mpilo Central Hospital,
Ms Portia Gowero lost every possession she owned while attempting unsuccessfully for two years to get rid of the growth, which represents two-thirds of her true weight.
Ms Gowero attempted to obtain medical assistance in Harare’s Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and Mutare Provincial Hospital prior to travelling to Mpilo but was unsuccessful.
A team of 10 medical professionals led by renowned gynaecologist Professor Solwayo Ngwenya performed a major two-hour operation on the mother of seven on Wednesday at Mpilo to remove the tumour that had been growing since February 2021.
Mpilo chief medical officer Dr Narcacius Dzvanga said he was delighted that his staff had managed to restore normalcy in Ms Gowero’s life.
“We have a female from Mutare who was struggling with a growth in her tummy,” Dr Dzvanga said.
“This was operated on Wednesday and a 30kg mass was removed from her tummy.
“It was quite a big operation and it went on very well. It was a remarkable work done by our staffers led by Professor Solwayo Ngwenya himself and I would like to congratulate my staff for doing such a successful operation despite the complications.”
Our Bulawayo Bureau caught up with Ms Gowero, who is stable and recovering at Mpilo.
She described the surgery as a miracle.
Ms Gowero said when the tumour started developing, she never took it seriously as she suspected that she was carrying her eighth child.
“I was breastfeeding my seventh child in February 2021 when I noticed that my tummy was growing,” she said. “I had to wean her thinking it was another pregnancy, only to be told two months later that there was no baby.
“I would feel a heavy weight on my tummy and this thing continued to grow until it affected my breathing. At first I went to Mutare Provincial Hospital with the hope that they would help me. Sadly I did not and the tumour kept growing daily.
“I was transferred to Parirenyatwa in Harare with no luck until I resolved to seek spiritual help from prophets who saw me sell every valuable possession, including 15 goats, two cows, a solar system and household property just to get answers.”
Ms Gowero said the tumour strained her social life as family members started treating her as an outcast.
“I live off peasant farming and I was struggling to work in the fields which also affected me,” she said. “I was always in distress and carried this tumour for two years and five months. I lost a lot of property trying to find answers until I decided to visit my siblings who stay in Bulawayo as I was being ill-treated.
“My sisters then brought me to Mpilo and I was lucky that on April 1 I found Prof Ngwenya doing rounds and it was decided that I be admitted and monitored to diagnose the problem. When they decided I had to be operated on, they highlighted that I needed a blood transfusion and we struggled to get three pints as my blood group is not easily accessible.”
Ms Gowero said after weeks of getting medical attention and sessions of blood transfusion, doctors confirmed all was set for an operation which was successfully done on Wednesday.
For her, the staff at Mpilo gave her so much hope despite her challenges as she could not afford the medical bills.
“I am humbled by the love and care I got at Mpilo,” she said.
“The nurses were so professional and I pray the Government considers giving them a salary hike, they gave me hope.”
Mpilo public relations officer Sister Norma Mabhena said when Ms Gowero first came to the hospital, they noticed that her tumour was still growing.
Weighing a total of 75kg, she was struggling to walk, eat and breathe properly.
Sr Mabhena also expressed gratitude to Government whose initiatives ensured that Ms Gowero had access to blood for free.
“Her tumour was affecting vital organs like the lungs and heart and her appetite was very low,” she said. “We are happy that she is recovering very well and we can tell she is relieved and will soon be able to walk. We are also proud of our colleagues who went all out during this rare surgery to save this precious life.
“We had two surgeons including Prof Ngwenya who was team leader, two anaesthetists, six nurses and several healthcare workers in and outside the theatre working flat out during the two-hour-long major operation.
“I think we last had this kind of surgery years ago where a team of our staff members operated on a woman who had a cyst weighing 25kg.”
Sr Mabhena said the tumour was so big that Ms Gowero bled a lot during surgery and so far the cause of the tumour hasn’t been established.
“We have taken the tumour for histology and soon we will able to maybe explain what caused this,” she said.
The largest tumour ever removed intact was a cyst of the right ovary weighing 138kg and the growth had a diameter of 1 metre and was removed in its entirety in October 1991 from the abdomen of an unnamed 34-year-old woman in the United States.
Mpilo is, however, not new to such rare surgeries as in 2008 another woman had a 25kg big cysts removed from her womb.
The winning team was also led by Prof Ngwenya then.