UK doctors break both Gloria Abeka's legs in three places so she can walk

Ground-breaking operations will enable Ghanaian 12-year-old to play with friends for first time

British doctors have helped a 12-year-old Ghanaian girl with a rare leg deformity to walk again after two ground-breaking operations in which they had to break both her legs in three places.

Gloria Abeka, from Accra, will spend more than eight months in the UK recovering from the operations to correct her painful bowed legs, which also included them being pinned with 22 screws in what is a rare procedure in this country.

She is now able to sit and stand and she will soon be able to walk and play with friends for the first time. She said the doctors who helped her have changed her life.

Gloria suffered a rare bone disease called Blount's and had grown accustomed to pain and disfigurement.

The condition - a severe growth disorder which caused both her legs to bend and twist inwards below the knees - left Gloria consigned to crutches and a wheelchair, unable to play with friends or sit in comfort.

But she met Basingstoke-based consultant anaesthetist Keith Thomson last August during one of his regular visits to Africa with the charity organisation Mercy Ships, which provides free medical care and treatment to poor children and adults in West Africa.

The youngster's plight inspired Mr Thomson to launch a UK-wide email hunt for a surgeon who might be able to help, which led him to Vel Sakthivel, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton Children's Hospital, who specialises in complex knee problems.

Gloria and her mother Mercy Yeboah, 54, were flown over to meet Mr Sakthivel last August, when he assessed her and agreed to perform two groundbreaking operations to extend both shin bones to allow her to stand up straight.

"I have seen children with this condition to a much smaller degree in the past but the severity really was the worst I have seen so far - an extreme case," he said.

Mr Sakthivel and his anaesthetist Andy Wilkins invited Gloria back to undergo a radical procedure which involved breaking her right leg in three places, known as a triple tibial osteotomy, to correct the distorted shin bone with a graft, three metal plates and 11 screws.

After spending three months with family and friends in Slough, Berkshire, recuperating and undergoing intensive physiotherapy, Gloria made good progress and returned to Southampton in March for the same procedure on the other leg.

Mr Sakthivel said: "This sort of extensive surgery is very rarely required in the western world and, to my knowledge, has not been reported in the UK before. It was an extreme case that required something very different if we were to have any hope of success."

He added: "Much credit must also go to Mr Adrian Wilson, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Basingstoke Hospital, and paediatric physiotherapist Bev Pinnick for their help in arranging an excellent and much-needed specialist physiotherapy programme."

Although still in the process of regaining strength and movement, Gloria is now able to sit and stand with straight legs.

"I am so, so happy," she said. "I have spent my whole life with very bowed legs and have never been able to join in games with my friends, feel normal or be without pain.

"My mother calls my surgeon Mr Sakthivel 'the magician' because she says he worked a true miracle on me."

Gloria, who is hoping to return home with her mother in the next three months, added: "I cannot thank him and Dr Thomson enough for what they have done for me - they have changed my life."

PA

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss