Ali Hassan, a young, handsome boy who loves wearing baseball caps, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It all started one day when his father noticed Ali shivering and vomiting, his father became alarmed and sought medical attention. It was the first step in an odyssey that took them from their home in Bahrain to Europe, to the United States and back.
When Ali’s father took him to the hospital in Bahrain, a CT scan showed a large astrocytoma. It shocked his father, not only because it was a devastating diagnosis, but because he had never heard that a child could have a brain tumor.
The physicians recommended surgery to remove the tumor. Although it was a frightening prospect for Ali and his family, after careful consultations with the physicians the family decided to proceed. The surgery removed a portion of the tumor, but a larger piece of tumor remained. The surgeons referred Ali to chemotherapy to shrink the remaining tumor. Ali received five chemotherapy treatments, but the medical oncologist informed them that the chemotherapy was not successful in decreasing the tumor.
Doctors then referred Ali to a radiation oncologist in the hopes that radiation treatments might shrink the tumor. However, the oncologist said radiation was not the right treatment because it might damage some of Ali’s healthy brain tissue. Instead, the radiation oncologists recommended more surgery to remove the remaining tumor.
Ali’s father began researching physicians in Europe and found one who had a track record of removing brain tumors 90 percent of the time. The Ministry of Health approved the family’s travel to Germany to see the physician. One month after the surgery, a CT Scan was performed, and it revealed that the surgeon was indeed able to remove the majority of Ali’s residual tumor. This was tremendous news, but the course of treatment wasn’t over for young Ali. The physician recommended that Ali receive proton therapy treatments to eradicate the rest of the tumor.
Proton therapy is not yet available in Ali’s home country of Bahrain. However, the Ministry of Health has an agreement with SAH Care. They introduced Ali’s father to SAH Care, arrangements were made, and the family very quickly found themselves in the U.S. for proton treatment at the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute in Hampton, Virginia. SAH Care made sure that Ali and his father were comfortable during their stay. Accommodations had been arranged for them within walking distance of the proton center and SAH Care made sure the family was acclimated to the community.
At the proton center, oncologists, physicists, and other medical team members designed a care plan specifically for Ali and soon he began his proton therapy treatment as prescribed. While his treatment was proceeding, Ali’s father was made to feel at home in America.
“SAH Care made it all easy,” said Ali’s father, “especially for me because I was so worried. They provided Ali and me with all the services we needed to easily live our daily lives while Ali received treatment.” Ali and his father were able to visit museums, take Kayak trips and tour the nation’s capitol, Washington, DC. It’s important to pursue daily life over the course of treatment and proton therapy makes that possible because it significantly reduces side effects. Patients feel better during the treatments.
Ali and his father on a kayak trip
When the course of therapy was completed, Ali rang the ceremonial brass bell that all patients at the proton center ring to signal the successful completion of proton therapy. It was a joyous moment for Ali, his dad, and the staff.
Now Ali is back at home in Bahrain with his family. At a patient reunion in Bahrain in February of 2017, Ali was front and center, this time wearing a stylish fedora for the elegant event. For the SAH staff, the event was a momentous occasion to reconnect with their patients and patient families, like Ali and his dad. The bond that develops between staff members and patient families is never broken; it continues well beyond the course of treatment.
Ali’s condition will continue to be monitored by his local physicians as well as his SAH physician. He is doing well and is once again enjoying life while wearing his favorite baseball caps.