NewZNew (Chandigarh) : A remarkable and complicated surgery conducted on a 13-year-old boy with a 7-inch ‘tail’ was successfully completed by the Fortis Hospital Mohali. The pre & post-operative care and the surgery were completely funded by the hospital as a part of Fortis’ 14th anniversary and community development. Dr Ashis Pathak (Director – Neurosurgery, Fortis Hospital Mohali) and his team performed the intricate surgery successfully in April.
Dr Pathak, MS, MCh (Neurosurgery), said, “Balaji was born with clubfoot deformity and weakness of lower limbs. The cord, or ‘tail’, was stuck at the bottom developmentally, and it had to be freed or removed as it was likely to cause changes in the normal spinal cord above.”
The tail is a rare congenital condition and it appears during the development of foetus in the womb for a brief period between 31-35 days of gestation and then disappears naturally with time. The club foot associated with this spinal anomaly reflects the imbalance in development of foot muscles because of the disparity in development of the nerves in such anomalies. It may be corrected but if the person already has severe neurological deficit, then it can’t be rectified.
The teenager was first examined at Fortis Hospital Mohali in February. “After examining him, I referred Balaji to our Urologist Dr Manish Ahuja as the patient’s bladder and bowel functions had been affected since birth, and we needed to address that,” Dr Pathak said. After carrying out a few investigations and an Urodynamic Study, Dr Ahuja decided to teach clean intermittent catheterization (CIC) to the youngster so that he could keep his bladder empty. “His maternal grandparents, with whom Balaji stays, said as Balaji had little bladder control, he would unknowingly urinate even while at school. This was causing a lot of embarrassment to the family, and they felt the boy would be alienated if this was not addressed,” Dr Ahuja said.
The growing tail had instantly made him a godly symbol and the locals hailed him as a reincarnation of Lord Hanuman. Balaji lives with his grandparents, Iqbal Qureshi and Suraya, and two uncles, after his father died when he was four and his mother remarried. “I never felt bad about the ‘tail’ and nobody ever teased me about it. People worship me as I pray for them to god so that their wishes can come true. But Dr Pathak explained to me that this tail was causing my spinal cord anomaly, which could worsen my neurological status. As a result, I am happy it has been removed,” Balaji shared.
His grandfather Iqbal Qureshi said, “Balaji is a very bright young boy. He is not only good at studies, but is also a budding singer. As I’m a musician myself, I have taught him how to play the tabla and also make him do his ‘riyaaz’ every day. As we belong to a village and are not very educated, we did not know which doctor to meet. When we consulted a few doctors, they did not seem confident and we also got scared for Balaji’s life. This time, a well-wisher told us about Fortis Hospital Mohali and we visited Dr Ashis Pathak, who assured that the ‘tail’ could be removed as it was necessary the spinal cord could be released also.”
Dr Pathak said, “The surgery lasted close to 7 hours as it was delicate and complicated. Unfortunately, though nothing can be done to rectify the clubfoot deformity, we wanted to give the best possible medical treatment to Balaji, who is a very young boy. This surgery and treatment will ensure that Balaji not only sustains himself, but also supports his family when he grows up.”
Reiterating Fortis Hospital’s commitment to extending world-class clinical excellence and patient care to all, Mr Ashish Bhatia, Regional Director (North), Fortis Healthcare Ltd, said, “When we came to know about Balaji, the only thought that crossed our minds was to help him lead a better future. He was lucky that his family and community did not shun him, because that would have been devastating. He is a confident youngster and after our doctors examined him, we decided to extend free treatment to Balaji so that his life could improve for the better. He was in the able hands of Dr Pathak, who has over 30 years of experience in the field of Neurosurgery in India and abroad. It has always been our aim to contribute to the community and this year as we complete 14 years, we have decided to do 14 free surgeries over the year, the first one being Balaji.”
Dr Pathak said, “This course of treatment will save Balaji’s life from future kidney dysfunction, since the neurological implications of the cord are bladder dysfunction and there is evidence of initial effect on one kidney. This will also stop any neurological deterioration in future. However, his paraplegia will not improve as it is since his birth.”
Post the surgery, Balaji will be able to carry out his routine chores. He will be monitored for his bladder functions and would be under the care of the urologists for some time.