PEOPLE [AMC Real Story] Now, I Can Smile with Relief 2024.02.27



After my daughter Aigerim(6) was sent into the operating room, I was left alone and could not help but worry. What if it is cold inside or the pain is too much to bear? I did not doubt the surgery results, but the wait was not easy. “Is the surgery over? How is Aigerim?” My husband kept calling every few minutes. I had traveled from Kazakhstan alone with my daughter for treatment of a duplex kidney, and my family back home was waiting for news. “Not yet. Just wait!” After three hours, I called my husband as soon as I heard the surgery results from the doctor. “You can go to sleep without worrying!” I could hear the family cheering at the news. It seemed my daughter’s treatment and my ‘mom guilt’ were finally coming to an end.


My Apologies

About two months after giving birth, I discovered that Aigerim had urinary incontinence. ‘What did I do wrong during pregnancy?’ I thought. Everything seemed to be my fault. The doctor’s suggestion to observe Aigerim a little longer because she was still young sounded irresponsible. Aigerim’s white blood cell count was also high due to incontinence. The prescribed medication must have been too much for Aigerim, and she started to lose weight. Hoping to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment, I visited several hospitals and departments.

It was not until Aigerim turned three that I learned the child’s incontinence was due to a duplex kidney. However, I was told that surgery was needed to determine the exact path of the second ureter and the reason for urine leakage.

There was a continued train of unfortunate thoughts and anxiety about whether Aigerim could have children in the future if it were a structural problem. “Surgery is the only option you have, but even then, there is a 50% possibility that the incontinence will disappear.” Even a large hospital, which I thought was the last to be considered, told me Aigerim’s case was rare and they did not have much surgical experience. I started exploring hospitals abroad with my husband. We did not say it out loud, but we felt the same way. It did not matter how much money or time it would take.


My Little Girl

We consulted hospitals in Germany, South Korea, and Türkiye. While we made up our minds to receive treatment in South Korea and were planning the details, the COVID-19 pandemic was rampant. Even though the treatment plan was indefinitely postponed, our daughter’s life had to go on.

On the day Aigerim first enrolled in kindergarten, I asked the teacher to change her pad twice a day. The teacher’s hesitant expression revealed the reluctance. I was told to get a confirmation from the hospital stating there was no risk of infection first. ‘Of course, that is how it should be,’ I thought, but tears welled up in my eyes.


Fortunately, the emotional pain did not linger, thanks to my daughter’s innocent nature. Aigerim brushed off her condition and always remained radiant in spirit.

I felt sorry as I used to dress her in voluminous skirts to hide the thick pad. So, I would promise Aigerim, “Once we go to South Korea and get surgery, you can wear whatever you want!” Then, she would ask, “Mom, what is South Korea like? I want to know about it so much!” followed by additional questions. I happily followed the path she led, looking for answers.


Different but Reliable

In March 2023, we finally arrived in South Korea and met Professor Sang Hoon Song of the Department of Pediatric Urology at Asan Medical Center. His diagnosis was that the duplex kidney was connected to the vagina and causing urine leakage. He recommended surgery to remove the non-functioning kidney. “You do not have to worry so much. This is a surgery we do almost every day at AMC. Side effects are minimal, too. Since laparoscopy will be used for surgery, we have to deal with only one scar.”


The explanation differed greatly from what I heard in Kazakhstan. Although Professor Song did not speak our language, he seemed to better understand the anxiety of the patient’s parents. With two months until the surgery date, I had been more nervous than ever in taking care of her, fearing she might catch a cold or her condition would worsen. I could not lose the opportunity to have the surgery performed by Professor Song. Finally, the day came to resect part of the kidney and ureter. It was the longest and most nerve-wracking three hours of my life.


Our Happy Ending

Aigerim was cared for 24 hours in the hospital ward. The attentive nursing care at AMC was appreciated and impressive, especially because all the nurses leave the hospital in the evening in Kazakhstan. On the third day after surgery, Aigerim became lively again and was discharged after five days. It was also a farewell to the pads that had always been bothersome. Everything was as the professor had predicted. ‘There is no better treatment than this!’


After making an appointment for an inpatient checkup a month later, Professor Song bent down to look into my daughter’s eyes and said, “You had a hard time with the treatment. So, make sure to have a lot of fun before coming back for the next appointment!” As if to keep her promise to the professor, Aigerim toured around Seoul, enjoying various activities such as wearing a hanbok and taking pictures at Gyeongbokgung Palace, visiting an aquarium, and taking a cruise on Han River. “Mom, I think I know why I had this illness. Allah wanted to give me this dream-like time!” I chuckled at her six-year-old’s innocent idea. “I have something to thank God, too, that we found a good hospital in South Korea!”


Back at the hospital, Aigerim prepared a gift for the professor. It was a drawing of her hospital life with the professor. Professor Song also visited her ward carrying a gift in his hand, and he held out his palm to Aigerim as if telepathy had worked between them. Clap! A powerful high-five echoed through the ward. “Aigerim, behave yourself!” I cautioned her, then looked around to see everyone smiling except me. I thought hospitals were all tears, but now they looked different. I also laughed for quite a while, not knowing whether it was Aigerim or the medical staff who made the difference.