Back home at the Tulkarem refugee camp in the West Bank, Palestine, 6-year-old Hadi Alkhadra has had to crawl or be carried by his parents his entire life.
Hadi was born with severe arthrogryposis (“stuck joints”), resulting in his feet facing the wrong way and his knees stuck straight. But with assistance from the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, Hadi and mom Shireen have traveled 7,500 miles to receive care from orthopaedic surgeon Lawrence Rinsky, MD, at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.
The result? Hadi is now able to wear shoes for the first time, stand with his feet flat, leave his new wheelchair and start walking.
A warm, outgoing and intelligent young man, Hadi has become a big fan of the 49ers, Chuck E. Cheese, and iPads since arriving in the Bay Area last fall. Now, he looks forward to seeing his sister, two brothers and dad when he returns home in late June. Though he will wear lower-leg braces for most activities, including walking, for at least a few years, Hadi will be able to attend school for the first time while planning his dream “to be a surgeon, just like Dr. Rinsky.”
Treatment included a series of casts on Hadi’s feet to gradually stretch his skin, ligaments, nerves and other soft tissues. He had a small operation to lengthen his Achilles tendon, then more stretching with casts. Then, a larger operation to remove the talus, the middle bone in his ankle. This created enough slack to bring his feet to near-neutral, followed by temporary pins to hold his feet in place, multiple casts, and physical therapy.
The knees were also treated with surgery and a series of casts to slightly lengthen the muscles that straighten his knees, allowing more bending and preventing hyperextension. This changed the arc of his motion: For the first time, he can sit in the backseat of a car, where one’s knees must be bent.
Mom is beyond thankful for the extraordinary care for her extraordinary kid. “All these people we have met, they have worked so well together to help Hadi,” Shireen said through an interpreter. “It never could have happened without Dr. Rinsky and Stanford.”
“This is a very bright young man,” said Rinsky, who loves Hadi’s handmade thank-you cards. “He has a wonderful spirit and is making incredible progress. I think he has a good future ahead of him.”
- Robert Dicks
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