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Inspiring: British doctors help 12 year old Gloria Abeka to walk after groundbreaking surgery



Gloria-AbekaAccording to the Mail Online B

ritish doctors have helped a 12-year-old Ghanaian girl with a rare leg deformity to walk again.

The doctors carried out two ground breaking operations during which they had to break both her legs in three places. 

Gloria Abeka, from Accra, will spend more than eight months in the UK recovering from the operations to correct her bowed legs, which also involved pinning them with 22 screws. She is now able to sit and stand and she will soon be able to walk and play with friends for the first time. She said the doctors who helped her have changed her life. Gloria suffered a rare bone disease called Blount’s and had grown accustomed to pain and disfigurement. The condition – a severe growth disorder which caused both her legs to bend and twist inwards below the knees – left Gloria dependent upon crutches and a wheelchair, unable to play with friends or sit in comfort. Blount’s disease is a growth disorder of the shin bone that causes the lower leg to angle inward. It occurs in children and the cause is unknown but it is thought to be due to the effect of weight on growing bone which prevents the inner part of the tibia from developing normally. The condition is progressive and is most common among children of African ancestry. Glora met Basingstoke-based consultant anaesthetist Keith Thomson last August during one of his regular visits to Africa with the charity organisation Mercy Ships, which provides free medical care and treatment to poor people in West Africa. The youngster’s plight inspired Mr Thomson to launch a UK-wide email hunt for a surgeon who might be able to help, which led him to Vel Sakthivel, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton Children’s Hospital, who specialises in complex knee problems. Gloria and her mother Mercy Yeboah, 54, were flown over to meet Mr Sakthivel last August. He assessed her and agreed to perform two ground breaking operations to extend both shin bones to allow her to stand up straight. ‘I have seen children with this condition to a much smaller degree in the past but the severity really was the worst I have seen so far – an extreme case,’ he said. Mr Sakthivel, and his anaesthetist Andy Wilkins, invited Gloria back to undergo a radical procedure which involved breaking her right leg in three places, known as a triple tibial osteotomy, to correct the distorted shin bone with a graft, three metal plates and 11 screws. After spending three months with family and friends in Slough, Berkshire, recuperating and undergoing intensive physiotherapy, Gloria made good progress and returned to Southampton in March for the same procedure on the other leg. Mr Sakthivel said: ‘This sort of extensive surgery is very rarely required in the western world and, to my knowledge, has not been reported in the UK before. It was an extreme case that required something very different if we were to have any hope of success.’ He added: ‘Much credit must also go to Mr Adrian Wilson, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Basingstoke Hospital, and paediatric physiotherapist Bev Pinnick for their help in arranging an excellent and much-needed specialist physiotherapy programme.’ Although still in the process of regaining strength and movement, Gloria is now able to sit and stand with straight legs. ‘I am so, so happy,’ she said. ‘I have spent my whole life with very bowed legs and have never been able to join in games with my friends, feel normal or be without pain. ‘My mother calls my surgeon Mr Sakthivel “the magician” because she says he worked a true miracle on me.’ Gloria, who is hoping to return home with her mother in the next three months, added: ‘I cannot thank him and Dr Thomson enough for what they have done for me – they have changed my life.

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