Footballer Edin Dzeko has been praised by the mother of a seriously ill teenager – for helping his recovery.
The £27million Manchester City star has provided support for Aner Zelic, 16, and his mum after he was flown over from Bosnia for life- saving surgery.The 26-year-old striker has visited Aner and mum Edisa in hospital ten times and pledged to help them after they return to their homeland.
Aner suffers from the rare condition encapsulating peritoneal sclerosis, a debilitating disease which turns sufferers’ intestines into concrete.
His operation was carried out by pioneering medics at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) who are world leaders in treating the illness.
After hearing of Aner’s plight, Dzeko was moved to help the stricken teenager.
Along with his mum, dad and model girlfriend Amra Silajdzic, the fellow Bosnian has been a regular visitor on the ward and medics say he has helped Aner’s remarkable recovery.
Dzeko has presented the teen with gifts including a VIP trip to watch the Blues, a PSP and signed City memorabilia.
Edin also bought Aner’s mum a phone so she can keep in touch with family back home.
He said: “I didn’t know Manchester was such a good hospital. A friend of Aner’s father talked to my friend, saying Aner was here with his mother and he was sick and maybe they needed help.
“I came to meet them and I am still coming!
“Bosnia is such a small country. When someone comes here, especially a kid who is sick, it is my responsibility and duty to help.
“I am a UNICEF ambassador and work a lot with kids.
“It is my pleasure if I can to help Aner in any way. I have become quite close.”
He added: “At first he looked really bad. For a 16-year-old he looked eight years old.
“He was only 25kg. Now he is almost 32kg and looks much better and is walking and sitting without problems and is eating.”
Praising the footballer, Edisa said: “Edin has been a big support for us. We are very grateful for that. It means a lot to us.”
The hospital’s team of world-renowned doctors – seven transplant surgeons led by Titus Augustine – have been developing ground-breaking techniques for treating the illness, including using skin from pigs after surgery to cover the intestines before stitching the patient back up.
The condition, which is a complication of kidney dialysis, has baffled doctors for years and treatment is still evolving. The syndrome leaves patients unable to digest their food, leading to severe malnutrition and inevitable death.
Manchester Royal Infirmary treats sufferers from throughout the UK and Europe.
Mr Augustine said: “It is like the gut is encased in cement. We call it the abdominal cocoon.
“When food is eaten it doesn’t pass through and people basically starve to death. Treatment involves painstakingly operating on the abdomen to release the gut and restore its function so the patient can eat again and nutrition is maintained.”
David van Dellen, who performed the eight-hour op with Mr Augustine, said: “The surgery was very complex.
“Aner was very scared and emotional and his mum was very emotional. We had to talk to him about the possibility of dying.
“That is why the support they got from Edin and his family was so important.
“Without that operation he would have died within weeks. Aner has done very well since then.
“We are still in the process of feeding him up but he is now ready for discharge.”