By Taniya Dutta
This is the heartwarming moment an Indian man got back on his feet two years after he was bed-ridden due to the growth of a humongous swollen mass weighing 31 pounds hanging from his left thigh.
Saidalavi, who goes by only one name, got afflicted with lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as Elephantiasis three decades ago.
The 46-year-old man from Thrissur in Kerala in southern India had underwent a couple of surgeries over the years but to no avail as the mass kept growing increasingly.
He could move with great difficulty with the help of his aged mother and two brothers. His family members ran pillar to post, but no doctor was ready to take up his case due to the sheer size of the swelling which gave his leg a grotesque appearance.
Saidalavi’s life, however, changed after a team of five surgeons and three anaesthetists at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences removed the massive sac in over a five-hour long surgery.
Dr Subramania Iyer, Head, Plastic and Reconstructive surgery, said: “It was a complex surgery. Several complications could rise because of the patient being overweight and his inability to walk. First, we treated him for four weeks with intensive antibiotic therapy to control infection in his legs.”
The doctors admit the surgery was not a mean task as the challenge was to physically transfer him to the operating table.
Dr Iyer said: ” We required to institute Comprehensive Decongestive Therapy which plays a major role in preparing a lymphedema patient for surgical treatment. But in Saidalavi’s case, the size of his swollen legs and immobility made this very difficult and needed at least four therapists instead of the usual one
“We needed a special method of bandaging to make his legs softer by pushing the accumulated fluid to other parts of the body. This went on for a month and involved Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD).
“Finally, his leg was ready for reduction. It was a challenge for anesthetists to manage the big excision in such an overweight patient. Saidalavi’s physical transfer to the operating table and correct positioning during surgery was also difficult and required meticulous planning. The surgery was successful and the swelling was removed.”
A month after the surgery, it was a delightful day for Saidalavi and his family as he could walk on his own without support.
A delighted Saidalavi said: ” I had given up all hope and was even worried that my legs would need to be amputated if the infection spread. I have now got my life back and look forward to taking up a job again.
“I thank the doctors of Amrita Hospital from the bottom of my heart for enabling me to lead a normal life. It is amazing feeling to stand on my own two feet without any support.”
Saidalavi will need further reduction surgery on both the legs after 6-9 months, and then he will be able to lead a normal life.
India has the highest number of lymphedema patients in the world, a crippling condition involving the collection of body fluid in any part of the body, leading to its abnormal enlargement and eventual disability. The incidence is high mostly due to lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), a tropical infection with the filarial worms transmitted through mosquito bites.
According to Dr. Mohit Sharma, Professor, Dept. of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Lymphedema is a major health problem in India, next only to malaria.
The patients, mostly poor and marginalized, suffer mental, social and financial losses, leading to life-long stigma and poverty. To make matter worse, an increasing number of people are acquiring lymphedema as side-effect of breast cancer therapy.”