|The Marto Family
you first meet Fadi Marto, you'll most likely notice that the soft-spoken
11 year old walks with a bit of a limp. But you probably won't realize
that eight years ago, doctors at Children's Hospital Boston didn't
think he would ever walk again.
When Fadi was 3 years old, he came down with what his parents believed
to be a routine stomach bug. But when their son didn't improve in
a few days, they decided to visit a pediatrician in their native
Jordan. After many tests, a magnetic resonance image (MRI) scan
revealed a large tumor in Fadi's brain. "We had no idea there
was a problem," says Abeer, Fadi's mother. "Our son was
just a normal toddler, so this was a complete shock."
Abeer and her husband, Souheil, had to act quickly, as Fadi's health
was quickly deteriorating. The doctors in Jordan offered them little
hope, so the Martos turned to a friend whose son had recently been
treated for an aneurysm by Michael
Scott, MD, chief of Neurosurgery at Children's. "I
phoned Dr. Scott and told him all about Fadi," recalls Souheil.
"He agreed to take Fadi as a patient, but said that he would
have to undergo an operation in Jordan to place a shunt in his brain
before he could fly to Children's."
Following the shunt (a thin plastic tube placed into the fluid
spaces of the brain to relieve pressure) procedure in Amman, the
family boarded a plane, traveling the more than 7,000 miles to Boston.
During the flight, Fadi's condition declined, with the toddler losing
all motion from his waist down, as well as much of his sight. "As
a mother, I felt so helpless," says Abeer. "I knew my
child was in pain, but he couldn't really express himself since
he was so young. And there was nothing I could do to comfort him."
The Martos arrived at Children's on a Sunday, believing their son
would undergo surgery the following Wednesday. But after a round
of tests and a full assessment by Scott and his team, Fadi's operation
was rescheduled for 6 a.m. the next morning. "The tumor was
causing considerable pressure in Fadi's brain and was very large,"
says Scott. "We knew the operation needed to be done right
The four-hour procedure only removed part of Fadi's tumor, which
had spread along his spinal cord, making complete removal impossible.
So, Fadi began a 33-session regimen of radiation therapy to target
the portion of the tumor that remained. "After he went through
the radiation, Fadi still had minimal movement," says Souheil.
"The doctors told us that at best all he would ever be able
to do was to stand up, leaning against a chair or table for support."
But Fadi and his parents refused to accept that he would never
walk again. And just one year after returning to Jordan, Fadi took
his first step. By the following year, he was able to walk across
the room. Slowly but surely, Fadi went from walking in his home,
to walking in his neighborhood and beyond. "At first, he had
splints on his legs, then he moved to a walker, and then to crutches,
all of which he fought. He was really determined to walk on his
own," recalls Souheil.
But walking wasn't the only challenge Fadi would face. After many
operations and radiation therapy, Fadi had lost almost everything
he had learned in his first three years. "We had to completely
start over, teaching him the colors, numbers, everything,"
says Abeer, who has a degree in Early Childhood Education. "The
doctors recommended that he learn more than one language, so in
addition to Arabic, Fadi also learned English."
Today, Fadi attends a regular school, and is able to keep up with
the other kids in his class. His mother gushes that he has beautiful
handwriting, but like any typical 11 year old, Fadi seems more interested
in horsing around with his fellow classmates. "I play wrestling
at school, and I beat my friend. I'm stronger than him," he
says proudly. "Fadi wants to be strong like his big brother,"
Abeer interjects, referring to her older son, Youssef.
|Fadi and his mother
But Fadi's strength isn't just in his wrestling ability; it's in
living his life to the fullest each day. "Fadi has become an
inspiration to the kids at his school," says Abeer. "They
say to themselves, 'If Fadi can do it, I have to do it.' They call
him 'Fadi the fighter' and that's truly what he is."
Fadi returned to Children's in August for cataract surgery, a side
effect of the radiation he had as a toddler. "Fadi will retain
his vision," says Deborah
VanderVeen, MD, associate in Ophthalmology at Children's.
"His mother says he's already watching TV and enjoying it more
than before, and when he goes back to school, hopefully his school
work will improve too."
"It was a tremendous pleasure for all of us on the team of
doctors and nurses who took care of Fadi to see him doing so well
on his return to Boston," adds Scott, who sent Fadi back to
Jordan eight years ago not expecting to see him alive again. "He
has a wonderful family and is a courageous young man. We all share
in the delight of his family at his amazing recovery."