A man nicknamed the 'Folded Man' was unable to stand up straight for 28 years due to a rare medical condition. A recent YouTube video has tracked the man's journey to full health to see how he is doing.
Li Hua, from the city of Yongzhou in Central China's Hunan Province is a 46-year old who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of arthritis which caused his face to be pressed against his thighs, challenging his ability to eat and move around like a normal person.
The disease is called ankylosing spondylitis, and Li Hua was diagnosed in 1991 at the age of 18, when he told doctors of a pain in his joints. This degradation of the bones forced him to become increasingly hunchbacked, until he could not stand up straight anymore. Li relied on his elderly mother full-time for all those years as the family could not afford any further medical treatment.
Healthline writes that the condition mostly targets the spine, but can affect other joints and lead to inflammation in the heart and lungs in cases such as Li's. The pain and discomfort caused by ankylosing spondylitis are only the beginning of patients' troubles as Li said he could not sit up straight or lie down flat in the last five years of his illness, affecting his ability to eat or drink.
Images and video of the folded man showed his upper body, from head to waist, laying over his legs "in a permanent, yoga-like forward-bend pose," as reported by LADBible. Medics at the Shenzhen teaching hospital where he was first assessed in 2018 described the severe spinal deformity as 'three-on': chin on chest, sternum on pubis, and face on femur.
"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," Professor Tao Huiren of the the spinal surgery and orthopaedics department at Shenzhen University General Hospital said.
Professor Huiren and his team broke and rebuilt Li's entire spine in a series of four operations in 2019, after numerous other surgeons refused to treat him for fear that he would die from respiratory complications during surgery.
In the video, Li can finally be seen moving around with the help of a walker, his mother overjoyed and overcome with gratitude. Although Professor Tao said his recovery would need to be guided, it was truly heartwarming to see such a surgeon offer his services to help a fellow human, not for the money.
Li said: "There would've been no cure for me without Doctor Tao. He's my saviour, and my gratitude to him is second only to my mother". Many other mothers understand the way Li's mother felt when she saw her son return to normal after so many years in pain.
Li is also quiet and dignified, showing that he is a man of the highest character if he could survive 28 years by patiently taking the pain.
It is reported that Li Hua is doing well in his recovery, even though the Shenzhen University General Hospital team said he should stay away from rigorous sports. In the most recent picture of him above, he is sitting independently in a chair, reading. There is still some straining in his neck but it's clear that he is glad to have his dignity as a man.
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