“I will flaunt my leg to all of Lagos. I will tell them, 'finally, Mary can walk',” said Maryrose Mkechi Okoh, 40, a tax-officer from Nigeria, who is in India for a leg surgery.
Okoh came to Delhi in October last year after repeat surgeries in Nigeria since she fractured her leg in 2000. Adding to the complication were a left leg shorter than her right by 9 cm and an infected knee implant.
“I will start life afresh at 40. I want to dance with my two children on my 41st birthday in March,” she smiled as tears rolled down her cheeks.
A team of three doctors led by senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr Naveen Talwar operated Okoh at Escorts Heat Institute and Research Centre on October 16, 2009.
“The challenge was to heal each defect without harming the other,” said Dr Talwar.
“In a two-hour procedure, we first removed the infected implant, applied an external fixator, created an artificial fracture to allow her short leg bone to grow and compressed the original fracture,” said Dr Gurdeep Singh Ratra, orthopaedic surgeon.
Doctors used the “monorail procedure”— where a single external fixator is used to keep the bone in place. In the procedure, surgeons divide the bone needing extension, with the help of nails. The periosteum (membrane) around the bone is left unharmed as it helps in growth.
The patient is asked to move the nut on the external fixator to a 90-degree angle four times a day to help the bone grow for about one mm every day.
“Over three months, her bone has increased 5.5 cm, but it needs to grow further to become equal to her right leg," said Dr Kaushal Mishra, orthopaedic surgeon, also a part of the team.
Doctors at Escorts are happy with Okoh's progress. “She will be dancing in the next three months,” said Dr Mishra.
“Extensions between 3-4 inches are easy but anything more may require two or more surgeries,” said Dr P.K. Dave, head of the orthopaedic department at Rockland Hospital, who pioneered leg-extension surgeries in India at AIIMS.