Woman with arthritis walks after 18 years

A 32-year-old woman with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, who couldn’t walk for 18 years, is now ambulant. She can walk a few metres without assistance and climb 20 steps.

The woman, now an online educator, relied on her mother to help her with her daily activities. All her joints were affected, including hips, knees, ankles and wrist. Though she consulted several doctors over the years, there was no relief as the treatment was complicated.

She received help from a Bengaluru-based friend, whose chance search on the internet led him to orthopaedic surgeon V. Singaravadivelu, now a consultant at Noble Hospital. The surgeon had earlier helped a 30-year-old man regain the use of his limbs after being wheelchair-bound for over 17 years.

Dr. Singaravadivelu said the woman underwent six major surgeries to replace both her hips and knee joints with prostheses and straighten her ankles. “The patient cannot put weight on the feet and walk as they were deformed,” he said.

During the course of the surgeries and rehabilitation, she broke her thigh bone, requiring another surgery. The bones were wafer thin and the muscles could not withstand gravity.

Post-surgery, she developed stress fractures on the ankle. She also sustained blisters on her feet as the skin was soft. “It is like a newborn learning to walk,” he said.

Two years after surgery, she manages to climb 20 steps and walk a few metres without support. But it will be a long time before she can manage to walk long distances on her own, he said.

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