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It was an emotional moment for a nine-year boy and his family when he walked normally for the first time in his life.
The boy, Eyad Ali, was born with a rare genetic disease called Tibial hemimelia, which is also known as tibial deficiency.
Eyad was born without a tibia, or shinbone.
The deformity created a difference in the length of Eyad’s legs.
The boy’s disability was an extremely rare condition that occurs in one out of every one million births globally.
Dr Anand Gorva, an orthopaedic surgeon at Medcare Orthopaedics and Spine Hospital, Dubai, said: “Eyad has a genetic condition, which he had inherited from his father, who also limps. Due to the condition, his right leg was 13 centimetres (cm) shorter than the left one. The deformity caused him to walk with a limp and use support. He was also born with three toes and the foot turned inwards. The knee and ankle joints are also missing in the affected leg, as he did not have a shinbone. When he came to me, he was in distress. His father was concerned about his child’s condition and was keen on proper treatment. Eyad had undergone some surgeries in the past that partly corrected the toe deformity. However, the uneven length between both the legs was putting pressure on his hips, pelvis and spine. We addressed that deformity.”
The affected limb had to be aligned by cutting through the bone in a surgical procedure called osteotomy.
The procedure has not only corrected his deformity for good, but he has also become 13 cm taller.
Now, Eyad can walk without support. He has also started taking part in his favourite sporting activities such as soccer and swimming.
“The limb was lengthened gradually by a maximum 1 millimetre (mm) a day to stretch his muscles and bones. In Eyad’s case, we needed to grow it by 13 cm, which took a few months,” said Dr Anand.
Eyad’s recovery would be in two phases, he added.
“In the first, or distraction, phase, the bone that has been cut is gradually pulled apart in a process that promotes distraction osteogenesis or new bone growth. As the space between the ends of the bone opens up, the body continues to produce new tissue in the gap until the desired length of bone has been generated…The basic principle is to get the foot in a flat position in a bid to make the patient walk independently,” Dr Anand explained.
Eyad’s limb has achieved the maximum length required and is in the healing phase, which will take another three months, following which the fixator will be removed.
According to calculation, Eyad will grow taller by up to 9 cm a year. The affected limb will catch up with the left leg in a couple of years.
“The other leg is growing normally and since Eyad is in his formative years, he may need another surgical procedure to keep the length of the limbs same. A difference of 2cm can be covered by using a shoe raise,” added the doctor.
The doctor said that if the surgery had not been performed, it would have had a secondary effect on Eyad’s pelvis and spine. “If this deformity is not corrected in time, it can also become a social stigma for the child and his parents. The correction also makes it easy for the patients to use public transport,” he said.
Eyad’s mother Marwa Adel is all praise for Medcare authorities.
“To see my son, walk upright without a brace or without limping is the greatest gift of Allah. He would feel shy when his friends asked him why he was unable to walk or play like them but he never stopped trying to act and be normal. He never got himself enrolled in the disability category when he played sports and competed with normal kids. I'm glad doctors at Medcare have helped normalise his leg functions. My son cannot stop smiling and all he wants to do now is play soccer with his friends,” Marwa said.
Eyad’s father is impressed with the surgical procedure performed on his son. He is looking to get his own deformity fixed and get back his normal gait.
“My husband also suffers from a similar limp. The deformity still persists, despite a few surgical procedures. The doctors have done wonders with Eyad. Now, I’m looking forward to my husband’s limp being fixed by Medcare doctors,” Marwa added.
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