18 year old Ephrem, has very severe scoliosis, and has been my patient for over 5 years. At one point he was sent to the USA and discovered to have an undetected heart problem, in addition to his spinal deformity. In 2011, he traveled to India with his dad to undergo repair of his aortic valve. When complications developed after surgery, it was replaced with a bioprosthetic valve.
It’s easy to assume that the worst curve a spine can have is 180 degrees – like a pancake folded on top of itself. I have many patients like that. Ephrem, however, had a 240 degree spine – his spine was shaped like a saxophone! Look at the model of his spine made by the CAT scan – Ephrem’s T10 vertebra – 10 bones down from the back of his neck – is higher than the first bone (T1)!
Earlier this year, we sent Ephrem to Ghana for treatment of his spine, one of the worst we have attempted. In Ghana, he had 6 holes drilled in his skull, screws inserted, a metal halo attached, and he was put into ambulatory/walking traction to slowly uncurl his spine for several months. Then he underwent a long surgery by the FOCOS team, which included 14-level spinal fusion, thoracoplasty, and multiple osteotomies.
Ephrem returned last week and looks fantastic. He’s healing well, and told me he can’t wait to start school – to become an engineer.
We greatly admire Ephrem’s positive attitude.
Ephrem – welcome to your new life!
Funding for Ephrem provided by Mending Kids International, and the Ethiopian Family Fund.
Ephrem’s story shared with permission.
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