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Patients in the Spotlight: Emmanuella Edoka

Exchange Student’s Move to Rochester Saves Her Life

Moving can be tough for anyone, for Emmanuella Edoka, 17, she had to adjust not only Emmanuella Edokato a new city, but to a new country and to a new medical diagnosis as well. After being recognized for her athletic talent at a basketball camp, she accepted an offer to travel to the United States and to leave her home in Nigeria. In pursuit of a better education Emmanuella arrived in Rochester on a student visa. Soon thereafter, she enrolled at Bishop Kearney High School.

Eager to play on the basketball team, Emmanuella had to first complete a physical, during which a heart murmur was detected. After a series of tests, it was discovered she had an Atrial Septal Defect, a congenital hole in her heart. She was referred to Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medial Center, and placed under the care of George Alfieris, M.D., chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery.

Having no prior knowledge of the defect, Emmanuella said that she never experienced any alarming symptoms, however thinking back she can remember how tired she always felt, “I never thought too much of it, I figured it was normal because I would play so hard.”

On May 9, 2012, Emmanuella underwent heart surgery that led to a near-two week stay in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Golisano Children’s Hospital. As overwhelmed as she was at the time, she now feels nothing but gratitude for the staff that cared for her.

“Everyone really took care of me. I never needed to ask for anything, they would just automatically do everything for me,” she said. “As a group, I would just like to say thank you to the staff. Thank you for paying attention to me and for making me feel welcome.”

Now fully recovered, Emmanuella is a junior and a forward on the girl’s varsity basketball team at Bishop Kearney. The biggest difference in her life post-surgery is the lack of fatigue she feels. “Before, I would play a game and have no energy afterwards. Now, I don’t get fatigued as easily and even if I do, I know I can push through and keep playing,” she said.

With another full year of school ahead of her, she is already looking toward the future. She plans to go to college and study journalism, with hopes of playing basketball too.

As she goes about her everyday life, she realizes just how blessed she truly is, “I honestly don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t come to America. Coming here was a blessing because my heart was able to be fixed,” she said, “and for that, I just want to say thank you to everyone at the hospital.”