Five-year-old Naba would have grown no higher than 3 feet 8 inches when she reached adulthood. The Iraqi girl was diagnosed with achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that causes dwarfness. But today she stands 12 cm taller, thanks to what her parents see as a miracle surgery in this city.
Naba’s doctors in Iraq found out that the gene had been transmitted to her from her father Ahmed, a provision shop owner. They had no treatment to offer, but only advice that India was the place for treating the dwarf syndrome.
Naba’s parents turned to the Internet. After numerous searches, her mother Seema found out about a hospital in Chennai that specializes in limb-lengthening surgery.
Naba’s parents brought the 84-cm tall girl to Chennai in October 2007 for a treatment that was extremely painful. After six months of the procedure called Ilizarov at the Soundarapandian Bone and Joint Hospital, Naba is now 12 cm taller.
Her doctors feel that she may grow up to 5 feet, if she undergoes another surgery between the age of 10 and 15 years.
After her doctors in Chennai confirmed that the FHFR – fibroblast growth factor receptor – gene was mutated in Naba, a team led by orthopedic surgeon S Sivamurugan did a series of surgical procedures to help increase her height.
Doctors used the routine Illizarov apparatus procedure on one of her upper limbs. A cut was made in the upper arm bone of her hand to create a gap and stainless steel rings were fixed to it using heavy-gauge wires. In a few weeks, the cut bone began to grow together.
While the bone was growing, the frame was adjusted by means of turning the nuts and bolts attached to the rings, thus increasing the space between broken edges. As the rings are connected to opposite sides of the fracture, this adjustment, done daily, moved the healing fracture apart by about a millimetre a day.
The procedure was repeated on the other arm and later on the thigh bone (femur) and the lower leg bone (fibula) of the right leg.
“It was bulky. The child found it painful, but she was very cooperative,” said Dr Sivamurugan.
On the left leg, the doctors used lighter equipment to achieve the same result. “The procedures were done over six months. We knew with three Ilizarov apparatus, she would do fine. She is 12-cm taller now and may need to repeat the procedure between 10 and 15 years. We are confident we can make her at least 5 feet tall by the time she is becomes an adult,” the doctor said.
Her mother Seema said, “Naba was hesitant to go to school since she is abnormally short. I am glad the surgeries have helped. I hope she can go to school with her head held high.”
Naba will be in the hospital for another two months before she returns to Iraq.
Sources: The Times Of India