A 46-year-old man named Li Hua spent almost the last three decades of his life with his face pressed against his thighs.
Odditycentral reports that ‘Li Hua’ was only 18-years-old when he was diagnosed with a severe condition called ankylosing spondylitis (AS).
Li Hua had to live with the devastating condition because his family who hails from the city of Yongzhou in Central China’s Hunan Province, did not have the money required for treatment.
His condition was so extreme that he was described “folding man” because his face pressed against his thighs,
Fortunately, his plight caught the attention of Professor Tao Huiren, head of spinal surgery and orthopaedics at Shenzhen University General Hospital who had treated people of ankylosing spondylitis.
Professor Tao Huiren admitted that Li Hua’s case was extreme but he still chose to help him stand up straight again.
“Our only option was to break his bones one section at a time – femur, cervical vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae, lumbar vertebrae – and then straighten his entire spinal column. The risks involved were 20 to 30 times that of a regular spinal surgery patient, and the chances of him becoming a paraplegic were also very high,” the professor said.
Doctors thought it prudent to damn the risk of a likely paralysis to conduct a surgery on Li Hua because the condition could further worsen and put him in mortal danger, as the pressure on his heart and lungs was more than a person can bear.
The Shenzhen University General Hospital in South China’s Guangdong Province described Li Hua’s corrective surgery as the surgical equivalent of climbing mount Everest.
It was done in four phases and required breaking the 46-year-old man’s spine in several sections, straightening it out, as well as fixing his thigh bones.
Post-surgical photos of Li Hua show him walking straight with the help of a walker, which doctors say he won’t even need in the future.
“Of course he won’t be able to do anything too extreme like boxing or playing tennis, but all regular bodily movements will not be a problem,” Professor Tao Huiren said.
Li Hua, who struggled to eat and drink before the operation, and measured only 90 cm in height, thanked the medical team for helping him stand straight again.
“There would’ve been no cure for me without Dr Tao. He’s my saviour, and my gratitude to him is second only to my mother,” Mr Li said.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a debilitating type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the spine. The inflammation causes bone tissue to wear away, to which the human body responds by producing extra calcium to grow more bone, even where it shouldn’t.