Scoliosis surgery is a big deal, no matter where you come from. But when you live in Guyana, the condition represents a significant challenge. The surgery is expensive and complex, and the country boasts neither physicians with the proper expertise nor facilities with appropriate equipment to provide the needed level of care. That’s what the family of 16-year-old Rahsaan Abel found out two years ago when he was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. But thanks to a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas, the boy will soon be standing tall again.
Rahsaan first noticed that something was wrong when he was 14 years old and his posture began to change. His ribs were sticking out in a new way and he could no longer stand up as tall as he once had. Speaking of his worsening condition, he said, “The spine started to bend into the rib cage side. Right side here kept pushing out and right.” But when he and his father sought medical help, the diagnosis was accompanied by bad news – nobody in their country could provide the surgical procedure that he needed.
Remembering back to that day, his father, Desmond Abel, says, “It was a period of hopelessness. As a father, your child comes to you complaining and you don’t know what to do.”
But when an Austin-based nonprofit called SpineHope was notified of Rahsaan’s plight, they quickly matched him with a U.S.-based physician who could help. SpineHope works with medical professionals in developing countries to coordinate care for children with spine problems. Speaking of the upcoming surgery that will be performed at Dell Children’s Hospital this coming week, a physician with the program said, “Every single consulting physician from the pediatric ICU to the radiologists to the anesthesiologists has donated their time.”
The procedure will involve a complex reconstruction, after which the boy’s spine will be straight and well aligned.
Rahsaan will be staying in Austin at the Ronald McDonald House for the next month as he recovers from his surgery. SpineHope has coordinated many similar operations for children who otherwise would not have receive the medical treatment that they needed for spinal deformities. In addition to bringing children to the United States for care, the organization also provides ongoing training with spine surgeons and hospital staff around the world in order to teach them advanced techniques and safety protocols. The organization was first established in 2008, though its roots go back earlier to a more informal program that started in 2001 through Chicago’s Shriner’s Hospital. In the 16 years since the organization first began its outreach, they have provided over 400 surgeries for children suffering spinal deformities and other conditions.
Treating children with scoliosis and other spinal conditions is a big part of what our lumbar spine specialist practice in New Jersey does. If you need to speak with a physician to learn more about the treatments available, contact us today to set up a consultation.