- At 19, Li Hua got diagnosed with a rare spinal deformity that left him unable to walk, eat, or sit upright.
- For 10 years, he lived in a ‘folded’ state with his face pressed tightly against his thighs.
- Surgeons performed four high-risk operations to help him walk again
Li Hua, The ‘Folded’ Man
Li Hua was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) when he was 19-years-old. This debilitating condition caused his spine to curve forward. Unable to afford treatment, he spent more than 20 years of his life in a state of agony.
As his condition worsened his body assumed a hunched over, ‘folded’ state. Three parts of his body came to look ‘connected’. Firstly, his chin to his chest, secondly his breastbone to his pubic bone, and lastly his face to his thigh bone.
Worried no one would be able to take care of her son after she dies, his elderly mother along with him, traveled over 500 miles to seek help.
What caused the Folded State?
Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory condition that can ultimately cause fusion along your spine. This rare form of arthritis mostly affects males. Most people present with complaints of pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips.
The most commonly affected joint in AS is one between the base of your spine and your pelvis. Similarly, other areas such as hip and shoulder joints and, the vertebrae in your lower back can also be affected.
There is currently no cure for the disease. Treatment usually involves symptomatic relief with the help of steroids, painkillers, exercise, and surgery in advanced cases.
Surgeons Break Bones to Fix Spine
A team of surgeons at Shenzhen University General Hospital planned four consecutive surgeries to help Mr. Li walk again. Dr. Tao Huiren, one of Li’s surgeons, described the difficulty level of the procedures similar to climbing Mount Everest.
The procedures were performed from June to December of last year. Li’s spine had to be broken and straightened at multiple parts to help correct his posture. By the end of his third procedure in September, Li was finally able to lie flat on his bed and lookup for the first time in over 20 years.
In his final operation, Li was given a total hip replacement. He then spent the next 6 months in the hospital undergoing extensive rehabilitation.
According to Dr. Tao Huiren, Li was finally discharged in July. The surgeries allowed Li a second chance at life. For the first time in 28 years, Li can now walk, eat food while sitting upright and look up at the sky.
Wang, W. (2020). ‘Folded man’ stands up straight after 28 years following surgery that broke bones. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from https://www.scmp.com/video/china/3100945/folded-man-finally-stands-straight-after-28-years-after-operations-broke-his