LEWISBURG, Pa. — While most Bucknell University seniors were celebrating their graduation this spring, Kodjo Karikari was working to save his sister's life.
The Ghana native, who studied neuroscience at Bucknell, turned to the University community and others in the Susquehanna Valley to help bring his 17-year-old sister, Akua "Adoma" Ofori, from his home country to the United States for brain surgery.
In late June, Ofori arrived at Dulles International Airport and was transported to York Hospital in York, Pa., where surgeons removed a malignant tumor from her thalamus, the control center of brain. Ofori now is recovering at the hospital so she may receive follow-up radiation treatments, Karikari said.
Walk On Foundation Karikari worked with Bucknell International Student Services, the Bucknell African Students Association and the Bucknell University Student Transfer Association as well as several community members to raise awareness and funds for Ofori's care through the Walk On Foundation and a spaghetti dinner at the Lewisburg Alliance Family Life Center. The groups raised more than $18,000 in less than six weeks and built important connections that led to York Hospital accepting Ofori as a charity case.
After the spaghetti dinner, Kaitlin Davis, 23, of Mifflinburg told her mother, Robin Davis, about the effort to save Ofori. Robin Davis, in turn, contacted Cathy Stauffer at Lancaster-based Casa Corazon, an organization for whom she has volunteered to help bring children from developing countries to the United States for surgery. Stauffer contacted York Hospital, and Dr. Joel Weiner, who agreed to take the case. Some of Ofori's schoolmates also raised money for her.
A portion of the funds have been used for travel and living expenses for Ofori and her mother, Juliana Oates, a permanent resident of the United States who has returned to Ghana to care for her daughter. The family hopes to donate another portion to Casa Corazon, which is helping to pay for Ofori's hospital expenses and long-term treatment.
Ofori was diagnosed late last year with a stage-3 pilocytic astrocytoma and low-grade glioma on her thalamus but hospitals in Ghana did not have the equipment to operate on her. Doctors at York Hospital discovered later, however, that the tumor was cancerous.
Ofori began to experience symptoms including severe headaches, disorientation and memory loss in October. She later became bedridden and unable to control her own basic movements or to complete normal daily tasks. She also developed diabetes and thyroid issues as a side effect of her medications.
Community effort Karikari, a Bucknell Community College Scholar who transferred from Harrisburg Area Community College in 2008, said he is grateful for the support from the Bucknell community, the Lewisburg community, Casa Corazon, York Hospital and Ofori's classmates from Achimota Secondary School in Ghana, all of whom helped made her surgery in the United States possible.
"People from all walks of life are touched by Adoma's story, and they have all been contributing in various ways to help," Karikari said. "The list of people is too long to name everyone, but I am so grateful to all who contributed in some way to bring Adoma here to get the treatment she needs."
Donations may be made through the Walk On Foundation website or by mailing a check to Walk on Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 62, Mifflinburg, PA 17844.
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