Miracle baby Zehan: A true testament to “rallying around the flag”

11-MONTH-old Zehan from Indonesia was the picture of health when he arrived at Penang International Airport recently. This marked his second visit to Penang but the circumstances were drastically different from his first arrival just six months ago.

At five months old, Zehan was in critical condition, suffering from a massive teratoma that had invaded his abdomen and compromised his breathing. Upon landing, he was rushed to Island Hospital for emergency care.

“Baby Zehan’s condition was life-threatening when he came to us. The tumour was nearly half his weight and had suppressed his breathing!” shared adult and paediatric surgeon Dr Badrul Hisham Yeap.

Dr Badrul, along with paediatricians Dr Ho Sheau Chui and Dr Tan Pek Yong, and anaesthetist Dr Zainisda Zainuddin faced a daunting challenge.

The tumour was occupying almost the entire abdomen, adhered to major organs like the stomach and pancreas and encased a major blood vessel in the liver. This necessitated a rare and complex surgical procedure, typically reserved for adults.

“We discovered that the tumour was occupying almost the entire abdomen and stuck to the major organs like the stomach and pancreas. Most importantly, it was encasing a major blood vessel in the liver, which caused much concern.

“In order to ensure that the tumour was removed completely and in one piece, I had to resect a segment of this blood vessel before reconstructing it,” explained Dr Badrul.

Island Hospital, a prominent medical tourism destination and a finalist in Malaysia’s premier Flagship Medical Tourism Hospital programme, boasts over 80 specialists and state-of-the-art technology. This combination of expertise and advanced medical innovations proved crucial in managing Zehan’s complex case.


“A key aspect of the success of Baby Zehan’s case is the expertise that each member of the team brought to the table; for example, our anaesthetist, who supported the baby’s heart and lung function, and made sure his blood pressure was normal throughout the procedure,” added Dr Badrul.

He also espoused the necessity of having the right equipment on hand.

“These days, we have a lot of tools at our disposal. For this baby in particular, one of the most important things for him was not to lose a lot of blood. The instruments we used helped to minimise that,” he further added.

One of the hurdles faced by Zehan’s family was the lack of sufficient funds for the complex treatment. As Zehan’s condition worsened and the need for surgery became urgent, Dr Badrul and his team initiated a fund collection drive. Contributions came from donors in Indonesia and Penang, including a group of international school children.

“We knew it would be a very challenging process, but we were certain that we could save the baby. So, we took the initiative to collect funds for the baby. Ultimately, I think being able to save a life is always worth it, no matter how much it costs!” noted Dr Badrul.

Furthermore, this heartwarming success story has inspired Dr Badrul and his colleagues to explore establishing a fund to assist underprivileged patients in obtaining necessary medical care.

“With Zehan, we had so many lucky breaks; so many people who helped. We will definitely look into conceiving a structured programme to continue this endeavour,” concluded Dr Badrul.

Today, Zehan is a thriving baby boy, meeting all his developmental milestones. His remarkable recovery stands as a testament to the power of collective effort and compassion. – June 12, 2024

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