Dubai: Ever since Mai Al Yezji was born, she has experienced at least one surgery in her lower leg every year, excruciating pain on a daily basis, and spent most of her time in hospitals.
This will soon come to an end for the 12-year-old Palestinian girl, who was recently brought here all the way from Gaza by a Dubai-based charity, The Little Wings Foundation, for a surgery which is expected to help her fully recover and begin living like any other child her age.
Mai, who was born with a congenital deformity in the right lower leg, courageously agreed to undergo an amputation surgery after all the treatment options attempted by doctors were fully exhausted.
The charity, in partnership with Al Jalila Foundation, carried out the successful surgery last week, which will be followed by a prosthetic limb fitting that is guaranteed to give Mai the ability to walk freely in the near future.
BEFORE THE SURGERY
“I’m very happy the surgery is over and I’m not feeling any pain right now. The surgery was something I always wanted done with. Once I get the prosthetic leg, my life should improve and I will hopefully be able to practice the hobbies I couldn’t before, such as swimming in the beach,” said the grade six student, who was discharged just three days after the surgery
“I want to become a doctor in future in order to treat people with cases like mine,” she added.
Her mother, Rania Al Yezji was equally excited because her daughter would no longer have to go through any more painful surgeries and treatments, with the last one of them being the Ilizarov apparatus, a type of external fixation used in orthopaedic surgery to lengthen or reshape limb bones.
“Mai has been suffering since she was only one year old and her condition was not improving. She spent most of her life inside hospitals and we had lost our hope until Dr Sinclair and his team took up her case. They diagnosed her condition properly. We are all very happy at the decision, even though it was a difficult one to take,” said the mother of six.
Rania said her daughter had not been allowed to swim or play like other children and was constantly getting infections as a common result of the external appendage fixed on her leg. “We hope this will be the last painful experience for Mai,” said Rania.
“Mai was one of the children our foundation met at a missions that we conduct regularly with The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). She suffered from a condition called neurofibromatosis which leads to various problems, one of which is a breakage of the Tibia (lower leg bone), which would not heal,” explained Dubai-based paediatric orthopaedic surgeon Dr Marc Sinclair, who carried out the surgery under the aegis of the UK-registered charity. “It is one of the most difficult conditions to treat.”
Despite multiple surgeries in Gaza by local doctors, which included bone transplants, and then the past two and a half years under the foundation’s care in Gaza, no further reconstructive surgery options were possible.
“Although an amputation is often frowned upon, in cases like Mai and considering the type of environment she lives in, this was the most promising approach and Mai and her family are supportive of this. After three years of treatment she will be able to walk unaided to school and Mai can’t wait to see this happen,” he said.
Dr Sinclair said they are working closely with Mobilis, a new prosthetics company in Dubai to get her the best customised prosthesis at a reduced price. “With this treatment our goal is to see Mai walk to school in a close to normal gait.”
He said that they will then wait for Mai’s surgical wound to heal safely, and then go ahead with a trial version of the prosthetic limb this month. “The full weight-bearing would probably be possible in six weeks. In the meantime the child will be attending regular physiotherapy at The Children’s Medical Centre. It is important that Mai train her muscles that have weakened over the last couple of years.”
The Little Wings Foundation has been conducting surgical missions for nearly 10 years now. Missions to Palestine, the Turkish/Syrian Border, Eritrea, Georgia and Haiti after the devastating earthquake have been completed so far.
The Little Wings Foundation has agreed on a partnership with the Al Jalilah Foundation which allows them to not only work out of the UK, but also within the UAE. Their missions to Palestine, as well as children treated in the UAE, is always in cooperation with the PCRF, especially its UAE chapter.