How tendon transfer surgery changes lives

Trusts Relationship Officer Vicki Davison recently visited Leprosy Mission projects in Nepal. Here, she blogs about her time spent at Anandaban Hospital.

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A surgeon at Anandaban Hospital performing tendon transfer surgery.

While at Anandaban Hospital, I had the privilege of witnessing a tendon transfer operation, similar to the one that helped Binsa and Kyrah, the father and daughter whose story I shared in my first blog post from Nepal.

I donned a set of scrubs and was led into a bright operating theatre where the team were preparing  their patient – a woman aged around 60 – for surgery. The team applied an iodine solution and elevated her right leg ready for the tendon transfer operation to correct foot drop – a common side effect of leprosy that can leave people unable to walk.

Despite being a little squeamish, I watched the whole surgery and was so impressed by the skill, expertise and good humour of the surgeon and his team. They spoke kindly to their patient and immediately put her at ease. The surgeon worked quickly and expertly as he made precise incisions and rerouted the tendons in her leg. When she has healed, this will allow her to straighten her foot as she walks so she no longer drags it on the ground with each step.

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The operation was complete, from start to finish, within 50 minutes. To me this was incredible, especially when I heard it used to take three hours to perform the same procedure. Over the years, the team have become so skilled that they have cut down the operation time significantly but still offer excellent care, all for free, for leprosy-affected people.

This operation was a real testament to the commitment and skill of the staff at Anandaban. It mirrored the professionalism that I had seen in staff throughout my visit to the hospital. Every member of staff that I met treated leprosy-affected people with care, compassion and love.

Did you know that last year in India (where 60 per cent of the world’s annual new leprosy cases are found), Leprosy Mission staff performed 631 such operations? A gift of £120 can pay for hand or foot surgery.

Read more about Dr Paul Brand, who pioneered the tendon transfer techniques that still transform so many lives today.

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