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Youthful neurosurgeon breaks barriers

DR GWENERO

Fatima Bulla-Musakwa

Gender and Community Editor

Performs complex procedures
 Debunking myths

AT 35, Dr Gratian Simbarashe Gwenero has found a purpose in life and everyday he seems to be inspiring and changing lives.

A neurosurgeon based in Harare, Dr Gwenero  has achieved remarkable milestones at a relatively tender age.

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He has undertaken complex head surgeries that include removing brain tumours and treating serious head injuries.

“It gives me a lot of satisfaction to look after my patients, and to hear them thanking me after successful operations. That feeling is priceless,”he told The Sunday Mail.

“Though mine is not an easy calling, I would choose neurosurgery over any other career if asked to do so.”

Dr Gwenero has defied the notion that young local doctors can only excel in foreign lands.

Through sheer determination, hard work and indomitable willpower, he seems to be changing the world with one operation at a time.

The youthful doctor has handled cases of patients with serious head injuries, including haematoma (blood clots), skull fractures and foreign bodies (axes and knives) lodged in patients’ brains and skull decompressions.

He has assisted professors undertake complex operations like aneurysms (swelling of the wall of an artery), pituitary tumours (non-cancerous tumours) and endoscopic third ventriculostomies (creating a hole within a cebral ventricle for drainage).

In addition, he has inserted medical devices like shunts in children with hydrocephalus (accumulation of fluids in the brain).

He is the face of a rare breed of dedicated medical specialists who have committed to serving and saving lives, away from the limelight.

Patients who have passed through his hands are living testimonies of the young doctor’s brilliance.

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Reverend Patrick Chirongo, a clergyman at the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in Harare, had a life-threatening brain tumour when fate landed him in Dr Gwenero’s office at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in November last year.

Earlier, a computerised tomography (CT) scan had Dr Gwenero conclude that the Reverend had developed a tumour on the right side of his brain, which needed to be removed.

By then, he was struggling with persistent headaches and his eyesight was beginning to fail.

“I then started looking for a neurosurgeon to conduct the operation,” recounted Rev Chirongo.

“My younger brother, who happened to have met Dr Gwenero before, gave me his business card, before we arranged to meet at his office.

“The way he handled my situation impressed me so much that I told him he was the right specialist to do the operation.”

Dr Gwenero said the nine-hour procedure to remove the tumour in Rev Chirongo’s head was complicated, as it was located in an extremely sensitive part of the brain.

“His condition was complicated because this tumour was situated in an eloquent area of the brain, the motor strip, which is an area that provides movement to half of the body.”

A mistake during the procedure would have paralysed the patient.

To make matters worse, the tumour was close to optic nerves, which meant that any misstep would affect the patient’s vision.

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“We had to watch out for these structures otherwise the patient would suffer dire consequences.

“The brain tumour was also large and highly vascular, meaning it had the potential to bleed a lot.”

A team of three surgeons — which included renowned Professor Aaron Musara — two anaesthetists and two nurses was assembled to undertake the intricate procedure.

“The operation was complex,” said Dr Gwenero.

“It took us nine hours to successfully remove the brain tumour, with the aid of an operating microscope.

“I attribute the success of this operation to the dedicated team of surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and staff at Parirenyatwa and Health Point Hospitals.”

Growing up in Gweru, the young doctor dreamt of becoming an aircraft engineer.

But he suffered the tragic double blow of losing both parents while he was still in primary school.

“My father was a soldier and my mother was a teacher.

“Unfortunately they passed on while I was still at Stanley Primary School.

“I went on to live with my aunt and her husband in Chegutu, where I completed my primary school at Hartley Preparatory School.”

After he had completed his Advanced Level studies, it took persistent cajoling from his grandmother to convince him to go to medical school.

“Interestingly, just before my mother passed on, she said she wanted me to become a doctor.

“These were really the defining moments, which drove me towards becoming a medical doctor.”

After attaining a degree in medicine at the University of Zimbabwe’s College of Health Sciences in 2011, Dr Gwenero completed his internship at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

Between 2014 and 2018, he trained in neurosurgery at the same university under the tutorship of Professors Kazadi Kalangu, Sydney Makarawo and Aaron Musara.

Following further specialisation at the Nobel Institute of Neurosciences in Nepal, he became a qualified skull base and cerebrovascular micro-neurosurgeon in 2019.

“I also did skull base work at St Louis University, Missouri, in the USA. In the USA, I was under the guidance of the late great neurosurgeon, Professor James Tait Goodrich.”

Prof Goodrich is one of the few specialists renowned for successfully separating Siamese twins on three separate occasions.

While most of his peers are still searching for their purpose in life, Dr Gwenero seems to have answered his vocation to save lives.

SUNDAYMAIL