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"Yaom’s Life" Fight Operation Successful

First published on Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority Facebook page (13/11/2023)

Edited: 14/11/2023

Little did she know that the flight out of Salamaua on a Sunday morning would be the life-changing step.

Five-year old Yaom Sani hails from a remote village called Hote in Salamaua, Morobe Province. Yaom is an orphan, her mum died in 2020 when she was just a year old and her dad abandoned her. She is raised by her grandparents Sani and Martha Matayau. 

Yaom had a very large cystic mass that had roots of origin in the depth of the right side of the neck, pushing and growing up along the neck while extending back about the right scapula. The mass pushed through the medial side of the shoulder joint under the clavicle and extended anterior to the right axillar and along the right lateral chest wall and pushed to the back. The cystic mass began to form on her shoulder in 2019, when she was born, and it grew as she grew.

In 2020 the family was going to take her to the hospital, however, Yaom’s mum passed on and whatever little the family had, was used up for the late mum’s funeral expenses.

In September 2022, Yaom was brought to Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae where she was admitted for three months. In December, she was discharged and told to come back for review.

Early this year the family brought her back and she was referred to Port Moresby General Hospital for surgery. Unfortunately, the family couldn’t cover the medical expenses for her surgery so they had to return home to Hote. But, before going back, Yaom's grandfather went to the Post Courier office in Lae and gave a story.

The article was sighted by John Kambua, a Western Highlander residing in Port Moresby. Kambua started reaching out to the family but could not get in touch at first. For five months, Kambua never gave up and looked for means and ways to get little Yaom out of Hote to a hospital for surgery. Finally, she became known to Mr. Gary T. Bustin, a missionary worker from the US who is the founder of Samaritan Aviation and now works in Tribal Foundation and Sensim Pasin Work.

Kambua and John Senior who does mission work with Mr. Bustin were heavily involved in organizing this trip for Yaom which started in September. Mr. Bustin first contacted Kudjip Mission Hospital for help regarding referral options and/or surgery. Dr. Radcliffe (surgeon) contacted Mt Hagen General Hospital Surgeon Dr. Benjamin Yapo by email on the 29th of September 2023. 

“Once I accepted this patient Mr. Bustin and John organized Yaom’s trip and she was flown into Mt Hagen on Monday 06th November 2023 for medical assistance through a project called ‘Yaom Life Fight’,” says Dr. Yapo.

Yaom was picked up by Manolos Aviation’s CEO (and pilot), Jurgen Ruh and Deputy Prime Minister and Lae MP, John Rosso, and flown to Lae. From there, she and her family were accompanied by Morobe Governor, Luther Wenge to Mt Hagen. Dr. Yapo stated that he was truly overwhelmed by the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister and Morobe Governor took the time to be personally involved in this ‘Life Fight’.

Little Yaom was received at Kagamuga Airport by Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority Acting CEO, Jane Holden and Dr. Yapo. She was admitted and taken in for surgery on Thursday 09th November 2023.

Dr. Yapo stated, “the surgery went so well that I was surprised that I was able to dissect far enough on both ends to remove the complete mass without leaving any part behind.”

“The natural behavior of this pathology is that if a part of it is left behind for lack of surgical access to get full removal, it has a good chance of recurring again in the future.”

“Having seen the CT scan they brought with them, I knew from the start it would be almost impossible to remove the complete mass which is one structure appearing at two different ends – right neck and chest wall. It seems I could dissect the neck portion as far deep behind the clavicle while staying outside of the main nerves and vessels that lie just there. Then I would dissect the chest part of this mass while being careful of the axillary vessels and nerves,” Dr. Yapo explained.

“This meant there was no way I could reach the mass bridge between these two without causing serious damage to nerves or vessels that run in bundles about there. So taking the complete mass out was so satisfying I was so happy we could do that.”

Acting CEO Jane Holden applauded the Pediatrics team for doing an incredible job.

Yaom was discharged on Sunday 12th November and she will be flown back to Morobe during the week. Her grandparents thanked everyone who was involved in her surgery and making the trip possible. 

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