After a remarkable transformation, Sampson, a now-16-year-old boy from Liberia who came to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus this past winter, has returned home.
As Rochester's KTTC-TV reports, Sampson came to Rochester with the help of MSNBC's Greta Van Susteren and international relief organization Samaritan's Purse. A team of doctors at Mayo Clinic successfully removed multiple tumors from Sampson's eyes and the left side of his face. The growths were caused by neurofibromatosis, a condition Sampson was born with. It's a condition that — as we reported when Sampson first came to Rochester — led some fellow villagers to label him an outcast. But thanks to plastic surgeon Samir Mardini, M.D., and others at Mayo Clinic, all of that is now in the past for Sampson.
"He's been completely welcomed back into his village," Frank Allen tells us of Sampson. "And for me, that's the most important part of all of this." Allen, who works in Mayo Clinic's Office of Staff Services, and his wife, Kim, served as one of Sampson's host families during his time in Rochester. He tells us Sampson wasn't allowed to leave his temporary home without a proper send-off first. "It was quite an event," he says.
So it seems. According to this Facebook post by Van Susteren, Sampson's farewell shindig at Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester was attended by several of Sampson's "closest friends," including Dr. Mardini. "We had fun singing a little song called, 'The Sampson Bunch,' to the tune of 'Brady Bunch,'" Van Susteren writes. "We then reflected with a video filled with pics of these last four months." The City of Rochester put an exclamation point on the event by sending a fire truck and crew to escort Van Susteren, Sampson, and his guardian, Willie, to Rochester International Airport, where a Samaritan's Purse plane was waiting. "Sampson enjoyed riding shotgun and blowing the horn," Van Susteren writes. "I am certain that along with the flashing lights, the community wondered what was going on over at the church!"
As he watched Sampson leave, Allen tells us he couldn't help but think back to some of the things that he'll remember most about Sampson's stay. "We loved having Sampson in our home," he says, adding that it was "pretty amazing" to watch Sampson adapt to a life very different from the one he knew in Liberia. "He was a real joy to have in our home."
You can read more about Sampson's return trip home here. Then let us know what you think by sharing your comments below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share with others.