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Afghan boy gets back hand in India

Twelve-year-old Ali lost his left hand in a rocket attack when he was just one year old. He landed in Delhi last week with just Rs 30,000 for surgery. But this was only possible thanks to plastic surgeon Dr Ajaya Kashyap's and the hospital, reports Sanchita Sharma.
By New Delhi | Hindustan Times, Sanchita Sharma
UPDATED ON JUN 18, 2008 01:11 AM IST

Twelve-year-old Ali seldom smiles, perhaps because he has little reason to. The Afghan boy lost his left hand in a rocket attack when he was just one year old. Though he has no memory of the attack, the stump for a hand and his facial scarring are daily reminders to the horror that changed his life forever.

Son of a small grocery-store owner Mohammad Hadi, Ali could not afford treatment and had resigned to his fate until the Afghanistan Ministry of Education stepped in earlier this year and gave them two flight tickets to Delhi and Rs 30,000 in cash for a hand reconstruction surgery.

The father and son landed in Delhi last week with the name of plastic surgeon Dr Ajaya Kashyap in one pocket and Rs 30,000 in another one for the surgery. “Most patients exchange long emails before landing up for treatment. In this case, I just got one call, which I thought was from Afghanistan. It turned out it was Ali’s father calling from the hospital reception,” says Dr Kashyap, chief of cosmetic and plastic surgery at Fortis La Femme Hospital, where the surgery took place on Saturday morning.

The reconstruction procedure on Ali’s left hand took three hours. Hand reconstruction surgery is a complicated procedure that involves reconstruction, replacement of the damaged bones, skin, joints and other affected tissue.

“Ali’s surgery will be done in two parts because the bomb fused the bones, skin and tissues together into a stump. On Saturday, we did the first surgery in which we reconstructed the thumb and the webbing between the thumb and the forefinger, which will allow him to grasp things with his left hand and give back 40 per cent of hand usage. Six months later, we will reconstruct one or two fingers and elongate the thumb so that he can use his left hand to hold things securely,” says Dr Kashyap.

“Recreating all the fingers is near impossible as all the bones have been shattered and fused, but the thumb and two fingers will make his hand functional after physiotherapy,” says Dr Kashyap.

Physiotherapy is essential to strengthen the muscles of his and fingers, which have not been in use for over 10 years. "The bandage will come off on Thursday and the physiotherapy begun here will have to be followed in Kabul for the next six moths to strengthen grasp," says the surgeon. Progress will be tracked online by studying photographs and reports.

“I have waived my fee and the hospital has given concessions. How can you expect the two to live in Delhi for two weeks on Rs 30,000?” says Dr Kashyap. The first part of the surgery costs Rs 1 lakh, and the whole reconstruction is expected to cost between Rs 3-4 lakh.

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