A 46-year-old Chinese man, who is known as the Folding Man, stands up for the first time in 2 decades, thanks to life-changing surgery.
Li Hua, the Chinese man, was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an aggressive form of arthritis, in 1991.
The disease forced his face to be pressed against his thighs for more than 2 decades.
Li was just 18-years-old when his joints forced him to become increasingly hunchbacked.
Doctors at the Shenzhen University General Hospital, which is located in the Guangdong Province of South China, managed to rebuild the entire spine of Li Hua through 4 operations.
Doctors broke and rebuilt Hua’s spine in 4 surgeries that were conducted throughout this year.
Li, who is from Yongzhou City, located in the Hunan Province of Central China, said his family did not have the money to get him treated,
Li heavily relied on his elderly mother.
Images that were shared by the doctors show how Li’s body was folded onto his lower limbs in a permanent yoga-like standing, which forced him to be in a bent pose all the time.
Doctors at the hospital said the severe spinal deformity is known as the “three-on”, which is chin on chest, sternum on the pubis, and face on the femur.
Li, who could not sit up straight or lie down flat, said his condition worsened in the past 5 years.
His condition got so bad that he had a hard time eating and drinking food.
Last year, Li and his family went out to find a doctor in the Hunan Province, but each doctor refused to perform surgery on him.
Doctors said any surgery performed on Li would come with a very high risk to his life.
Earlier this year, Li’s family came across Professor Tao Huiren, who heads up the spinal surgery and orthopedics department at Shenzhen University General Hospital.
Professor Tao has a history of treating people with the same spinal conditions as Li’s.
But reports suggest that Professor Tao did not come across a spinal problem that was this severe.
Professor Tao accepted the challenge and went on to help Li.
Professor Tao explained what he and his team had to do.
The medic said, “A regular so-called penknife patient would still be able to lift their head, but he couldn’t. There was only a 5-centimeter (2-inch) gap between his chin and thighs. Our only option was to break his bones one section at a time – femur, cervical vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae, lumbar vertebrae – and then straighten his entire spinal column.”
The medic added, “The risks involved were 20 to 30 times that of a regular spinal surgery patient, and the chances of him becoming a paraplegic were also very high.”
In the last phase of Li, he was allowed to sit up, lift his head, and lie flat again.
Images that were shared by the hospital show Li sleeping flat, sitting, and even standing straight for the first time.
Reports suggest Li stood straight for the first time in 28 years.
Thanks to Professor Tao, Li is now capable of moving around with a walker.
Professor Tao says Li will regain normal movement 2 to 3 months after PT.
Professor Tao said, “Of course he won’t be able to do anything too extreme like boxing or playing tennis, but all regular bodily movements will not be a problem.”
Li thanked Professor Tao for treating him.
Li said, “There would’ve been no cure for me without Doctor Tao. He’s my savior, and my gratitude to him is second only to my mother.”
The Shenzhen University General Hospital called the case of Li as the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.
The hospital said it was the first time in China that a severe spinal condition was treated.