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Severance Hospital saves South Sudan girl who swallowed a metal piece

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Gloria, a four-year-old girl from the Republic of South Sudan who swallowed a 2.5-centimeter metal piece, got a new life after receiving two surgeries at Severance Hospital.

In May, the child entered Korea via Egypt with the swallowed metal piece in her chest.

When Gloria’s father, Gandhi, brought her to a medical institution in South Sudan and took an X-ray image, they found a piece of metal stuck inside her chest. The local doctor said it would be difficult to remove the metal with endoscopy and that she needed surgery.


Gloria and her father headed to Egypt, looking for better medical facilities. However, they heard that the metal had penetrated the esophagus, and she needed to receive surgery, which the local doctors could not perform. The news was delivered to Severance Hospital by some missionaries. Thoracic surgeons at the hospital confirmed Gloria’s condition and said they could perform the surgery.

After hospitalizing the girl, the hospital’s Department of Thoracic Surgery reconstructed the computed tomography image in three-dimensions and found the metal piece’s location. The 3D image showed that the metal piece had penetrated the esophagus and pushed through the bronchi right next to the aortic arch.

Professor Park Seong-yong made an incision on the main bronchus and cleared the main artery to safely remove the metal piece from the damaged tissue via the left-side thoracotomy.

However, the fistula between the esophagus and the bronchi had been damaged for a long time, leaving a small opening at the site. Gloria could not eat as consumed food passed through the opening to bronchi and induced repetitive suction.

Professor Park performed a second operation to reconstruct the back of the bronchial tubes damaged by the metal object using esophagus walls.

“The operation was successful, but her left bronchi, which had been squashed and melted by the metal fragment for a long time, were narrow with weakened lungs,” said Kim Kyung-won of the Department of Pediatrics at the hospital. “Her bronchi and lungs improved as she sought relief, and her condition got better to consume enough food.”

Professor Park said, “It was a miracle that Gloria could come to Severance Hospital after swallowing the metal piece. I felt it quite rewarding to see Gloria endure the tough surgery and recover her health.”

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