Brave heart teenager beats rare spinal deformity disorder in complex surgery

  •  In a difficult marathon surgery lasting 9 hours; a 52 degree bend of the spine was treated by the ISIC team
  •  Not intimidated by the enormity of the situation, the confident teenager uploaded videos of her surgery and recovery on YouTube

New Delhi: Rashi Sahani (15) was a happy go lucky teenager until the day a medical examination revealed that she was suffering from a very rare and complex deformity of the spine.

Adolescence idiopathic scoliosis, as it is called is a rare disease causing spinal deformity or curvature, and needs major surgical intervention to be corrected.

Rashi’s problem was accidently detected when she went for X-ray of the chest in connection with the treatment of a minor lung ailment. It was discovered that she had a spinal curvature of 52.08 degrees.

A deformity that can both skew the appearance of a person and may cause physical discomfort as the child grows up, it needed immediate medical intervention. At Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC), Dr Vikas Tandon, Consultant Spine Services, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, took the young Rashi under his treatment. A veteran of such cases, Dr Tandon had conducted as many as 25 such surgeries before Rashi, some in much younger children.

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that appears in late childhood or adolescence. Instead of growing straight, the spine develops a side-to-side curvature, usually in an elongated “S” or “C” shape; the bones of the spine are also slightly twisted or rotated. Some children are born with such a disorder. However, Rashi developed it in later childhood. About 90% cases of idiopathic scoliosis happen between the age group of 11-18 yrs.

The spinal surgery and the treatment thereafter is not easy or simple by any standard. It involves a massive and complicated surgery which also entails the risk of neurological damage if not done under the supervision of an expert and experienced doctor. Patients with Scoliosis have to be treated early before the curve advances aggressively and is a threat to normal functioning of the body’s organs.

The patient, however, was very confident about her surgery and upbeat about her recovery.

A team of 5 doctors, nurses and technicians led by Dr Tandon conducted the marathon surgery to correct the deformed spine. Lasting nine hours, the surgery successfully corrected the curvature and set the young girl for a safe and sound recovery.

“This disorder is very rare and so is the surgery. Besides, there is no known cause as to why the spinal curvature of a child becomes suddenly deformed. Since spine is a very sensitive part of our body and the core of the central nervous system, any mishap in handling it can have lasting impact on the entire body which is controlled by the nervous system. There is always a risk of nerve damage during such a difficult spinal procedure. However, given our experience, we were confident of ensuring a good outcome,” said Dr Tandon, Consultant Spine Services, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.

The young patient, on the other hand, was upbeat and positive right through the entire treatment, even as she was well aware of the risks and potentially negative consequences, the threat of which such a major surgery always holds. She also decided to use her case to raise awareness among people about the disorder and the fact that it can be treated. She went on to upload her pre and post surgery videos on YouTube, highlighting her recovery.

‘Scoliosis will not define me, not ashamed to be called a curvy girl’- is the starting line of her YouTube video. This is the message that should be spread that not let the disease define you, lets defy the disease.

“I am very happy that ISIC got the chance to treat Rashi. In India, physical deformity is a major taboo, especially when it happens to girls. This shouldn’t be the case. We need to shed this taboo and spread education about the treatability of spinal deformity. Rashi’s positive approach and her determination to defy the taboo associated with it is a major boost to other patients,” said, Dr H S Chhabra – Medical Director and Chief of Spine Services, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.

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