Nineteen-year-old Kumari Karishma is getting married next month. A year ago, her family was not even sure whether she would ever be able to walk again.
Karishma’s right leg became completely paralysed after she slipped on the stairs last year. The accident happened on February 12 ,when she was climbing down the stairs at home with a bucket of water. “From being a lively girl, she became completely bed-ridden. She couldn’t move her right leg at all,” says mother Kanta Rani. She also lost control over her bladder-bowel movements and had to keep a urine pouch with her at all times.
She is one of three patients who have almost completely recovered after a spinal cord surgery at the Trauma Centre at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The reason: all three got operated within a month of the accident.
No one expected Hawa Singh, 41, a Border Security Force personnel posted in Assam, to survive a fall from a 40-feet high watchtower. Not only did he survive, but he can also move his legs, barely nine months after the accident.
M.D. Naushad, 21, has a similar story to tell. On April 18 last year, his back was crushed under a heavy iron staircase that fell on him while he was repairing an electrical wire. “The pain was excruciating and I found I couldn’t move at all. I could not even sit up or walk without help after the accident,” says Naushad.
All three could not move because they had fractured their spinal cord and lost power in their legs. In medical terms, the condition is called paraplegia — a form of paralysis that happens due to injury to the spinal cord.
Experts say most of the paraplegia patients do not recover movement and remain bed-ridden for life. That’s why the quick recovery of these patients surprised even the surgeons who treated them.
“The improvement they have shown is remarkable. They will be able to lead a normal life soon. In fact, Karishma is already back to normal,” says Dr Kamran Farooque, assistant professor in the department of orthopaedics, who performed the surgeries.
“To remove the fragments of the fractured bone that compressed the spinal cord and caused the paralysis, a two-stage surgery— posterior and anterior — is done to remove all the bony fragments and to fill the void created by providing support with a cage. The surgery costs between Rs 30,000 and Rs 1 lakh,” he says. In two weeks, the patient can go home.
Such surgeries should take place within five months of injury. “Being bed-ridden for long can cause complications, such as complete paraplegia in partially paralysed patients,” says Farooque.
“It looked like it was the end of the world for me at that time, but thanks to the doctors here, I have got my life back. I am looking forward to getting married now,” smiles Karishma.