Arm re­stored for Christ­mas

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

Christ­mas time for Pooja Lal from the Fiji town of Labasa, has been made much mer­rier thanks to a Palmer­ston North sur­geon.

For the past three years the 18-year-old high school stu­dent had been af­fected by an un­usual con­di­tion. Pooja had an ex­tra rib. Called a cer­vi­cal rib, it dropped down from just be­low her neck. This ex­tra rib was crimp­ing the nerve to her right arm which pro­gres­sively she be­came un­able to use.

Crest Hos­pi­tal sur­geon Pravin Ku­mar came across Pooja while work­ing as part of a team of vol­un­teer sur­geons, Friends for Fiji, which has been op­er­at­ing in the is­land repub­lic for at least the last five years.

‘‘She was a top stu­dent, a high achiever, but this caused her to drop out of school,"Pravin says. ‘‘There was no way she could get this sort of op­er­a­tion in Fiji, so I spoke to Crest and they put things to­gether to get her over.’’

This was so a sur­gi­cal team could re­move the rib and re­store use to her arm.

‘‘The hope is that she will be able to go back to school.’’

The pro­ce­dure was car­ried out on Novem­ber 20.

‘‘It’s a fid­dly op­er­a­tion. The neck is a busy area,’’ Pravin ex­plains.

While Crest Hos­pi­tal made the op­er­a­tion pos­si­ble, sur­geon Dilip Naik came up from Welling­ton, the anaes­thetist Dr Nigel Wa­ters and se­nior nurses stayed back on a Fri­day af­ter­noon to help carry out the pro­ce­dure. Broad­way Ra­di­ol­ogy didn’t charge for the x-rays, nei­ther did physio Sarah Dick­son charge for her ser­vices.

De­spite still be­ing sore and get- ting used to hav­ing an arm that works, Pooja is more than happy that the cause of her im­ped­i­ment has been re­moved.

‘‘It’s still hurt­ing,’’ she says, but she expects full re­cov­ery to take a fur­ther month or so.

Pooja went back to Fiji on De­cem­ber 6, equipped with ex­er­cises to strengthen her limb, and hopes to be able to start the new school term.

This co-op­er­a­tive sur­gi­cal ef­fort un­cov­ered a long­stand­ing con­nec­tion city medi­cos have with Fiji.

‘‘The three main spe­cial­ist sur­geons at Suva Hos­pi­tal were all trained at Palmer­ston North,’’ Pravin re­veals.

PHOTO: FAITH SUTHER­LAND/ FAIR­FAX

Eigh­teen-year-old Pooja Lal from Labasa in Fiji re­ceived a spe­cial pre-Christ­mas gift at Palmer­ston North’s Crest Hos­pi­tal. The patch on her neck was where the sur­gi­cal team re­moved an ex­tra rib.

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