You likely weren’t aware of the fact that one in every 1,000 births result in a child with one or two club feet, a condition also referred to by doctors as congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV). That means that there are over 7 million individuals on this planet who were born with CTEV. Luckily for many, the problem solves itself and patients are able to recover from the deformity completely during their early childhood through the use of boots and braces. For some individuals, especially those without adequate healthcare, the condition never fully improves, requiring surgical intervention. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford such intervention.
This was the case for one Tibetan man whose identity we will protect, but who we will refer to as Dawa. From a young age Dawa had suffered from this deformity, unable to walk properly, but also unable to afford the attention required to correct the problem. As he aged the issue only became more of an impediment for him. His entire left foot was slanted outward into a position which forced him to walk on the side of his foot or barely use it at all.
Dawa, who is 19-years-old, recalls five years ago when he saw a girl who had a similar deformity have a very successful corrective surgery at the Red Cross hospital in Xi’an. This sparked the idea that he too could be cured of his ailment.
“My dream is to be able to walk like a normal person, and after walking I’d like to be able to wrestle,” explained Dawa.
After 5 years, Dawa and his family successfully raised the funds required to correct his club foot, and the family traveled all the way to the Xi’an Red Cross Hospital, where Dr. Liang Xiaojun performed comprehensive medical analysis and tests. Unfortunately the deformity was worse than even Dawa had imagined, as the deformed foot also led to hip dysplasia and subluxation.
“Because the condition was left untreated for so many years, his left leg was 5cm shorter than his right,” explained Dr. Xiaojun.
Typically this would require two separate surgeries, one which would lengthen the leg, and the other which would straighten the foot, but Dr. Xiaojun knew that the family would not be able to afford both procedures. Instead he opted to do something that is rarely ever done, perform both surgeries at once, only charging the family for one. Obviously such a procedure would be extremely complicate, thus forcing Dr. Xiaojun to think outside the box for preparation.
In comes 3D printing and its ability to replicate near-exact 1:1 physical models of a patient’s problem area, which in this case was Dawa’s left foot. This allowed the surgeons to practice the procedure as well as examine the foot in further detail prior to the complicated surgery.
After much anticipation on the part of Dawa as well as the surgeons, the procedure was a perfect success, and Dawa, who required an extensive six months for recovery, is now finally walking like any other healthy individual. Thanks to a caring family, a surgeon who was able to put finances on the back burner, and the incredible technologies behind 3D printing, Dawa has achieved his dream.[Images: hsw.cn]
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