Ethiopian girl loses eyesight, but not her heart, in fight for life

Posted at 8:03 AM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 10:47:38-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- A 12-year-old girl has been given a third chance at life at Riley Hospital for Children after beating a brain tumor twice.

Kalkidan Sirbaro, who now lives near Fort Wayne with caregivers, is spending her new life giving back. 

She spends her time weaving beautiful creations -- because it's what she knows. 

"I like to keep working," she said. "I don't have the patience to sit and do nothing because I still have that blood. In Ethiopia, you start at 6 o'clock [a.m.] to work, and don't stop till 11 or 12 o'clock at night."

Sirbaro weaves slippers, scarves, hats, kitchen towels and hot pads. She sells them to send money back to her family Ethiopia -- and gives them out to homeless people to keep them warm.

She weaves through touch, not sight, as she lost her vision as a young child. 

Sirbaro lived in Ethiopia with her family until U.S. medical missionaries learned of her painful headaches and took her to the states to treat her brain tumor. 

"It didn't feel good," she said. "I cried every day and every night. Because of the headache I could not go to bed.  I could not stand up. I didn't want anything to do with anybody.  Because I just could not cooperate with it and just was miserable."

This tumor is different than most, because it grows back. Sirbaro came to Riley Hospital to get it removed again.

"Kalkidan has a pretty rare type of tumor called craniopharyngioma," Dr. Daniel Fulkerson said. "That is kind of a cockroach of tumors. It is a benign tumor that keeps coming back and it is hard to kill. And it tends to grow right where your eye nerves are and where your hormones are. So it has affected her stature, she is very small and it took her eyesight."

Through mission work, Sirbaro was able to get the surgeries she needed to survive. She now has a clean bill of health.

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