Natasha Rahman unfolds how Children First Foundation saved the life of a Bangladeshi child born with a rare medical anomaly
Anyone who meets three-year-old Choity Khatun can see what a wonderful bundle of joy she is! Her smile, the ebullience she exudes- everything is contagious. Probably this is why it is difficult to imagine the painstaking phases of treatment she had to go through. From the moment she was born, Choity’s tussle with life had already begun. A rare congenital anomaly named caudal twinning, where a twin had grown out of her pelvis has become a living part of her body. Due to the condition, a third leg grew out of her pelvis; with an extra digestive tract and the second set of reproductive organs, further worsening her existing condition. The world’s response to Choity could easily be anticipated: ‘a freak child,’ ‘an evil whim of Mother Nature?’
While the parents were knocking on hospital doors in search of a fix, common people made mockery of their plight deeming her condition to be a curse caused by the sins of her parents. Even the doctors were stunned and did not know how to go about with this case. On the eighth day of her birth, she went through her first operation at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) where her third limb had been separated. At such a young age, she had to go through a sensitive bowel surgery. Six months and a colostomy later, there was not much for doctors to do. The little ray of hope for Choity was slowly diminishing. Drowning in utter despair, her mother Shima prayed for a miracle.
And that miracle came in the form of Children First Foundation. The foundation assists children from countries without the resources that are needed to treat their medical condition. They also collaborate with surgeons from various specialties, medical providers and major hospitals who provide services pro-bono or at humanitarian rates.
And like the ray of sunshine after a stormy night, things started looking up for the little girl.
On the eighth day of her birth, she went through her first operation at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) where her third limb had been separated. At such a young age, she had to go through a sentsitive bowel surgery.
“Children First Foundation works in partnership with a number of individuals and community and referral groups who refer children to the foundation. In 2015, Atom Rahman, who runs a Bangladeshi charity named AACHOL Trust, referred Choity to the foundation. “In fact, it was Atom who referred conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna to us for separation,” shared Julie, Manager, Media and Communications; Children First Foundation.
What makes the foundation a gem of a find is in their innate need to go the extra mile and treat children as their own. “When a child is referred to us, our case manager gathers all available medical information and presents it to the relevant surgeon who will advise if surgery is possible. In some cases it may not be recommended if the child requires ongoing attention that is not available in their home country,” she said. Choity’s case was presented to Associate Professor Chris Kimber who agreed to treat her and secured the support at Monash Children’s Hospital, Australia.
The Melbourne surgeons were too at a loss! Choity was a unique individual and needed special care. As she had double of some organs, many were attached in the wrong places inside her lower body. “When we started, we thought she might end up being incontinent for life, but as we went on we found extra muscles and were able to reconstruct reasonable normal anatomy, and we’ve been able to achieve way beyond what we expected,” he shared.
Chris spent over three months discussing Choity’s case with experts and very senior surgeons from Italy, France, England and the USA before operating on her in November last year.
“We had multiple team meetings and worked out a variety of techniques. Over five separate and complex operations were required to be done on Choity simultaneously. The order of these, the chosen method, the use of a complex laparoscopy and the specialised surgical staff required was heavily debated for some time until we got it right,” Chris elaborated.
When faced with daunting cases like this, there are numerous complications involved. “There is always the risk of severe bleeding, incontinence, major wound breakdown and sometimes death,” Chris reveals.
Nonetheless, the team did their utmost to minimise the risks and give Choity a new lease on life.
Believed to be a first of its kind surgery, they made decisions cautiously and prepared for a well-planned operation. In such cases, a very slow approach is needed in order to get it right. However, Choity was a fighter- and like a true fighter, she did not give up.
In a painstaking 8 hour-long gruelling operation, the surgeons removed her third leg, reconstructed her rectum and made Choiti continent, a state which will allow her to excrete urine properly like a normal human being. When she was released from the surgery, the doctors too were in awe of the spirited child.
“I have personally learned a great deal from Choity’s case. I initially thought she would never be continent but it’s remarkable how everything turned out for her,” Chris smiled.
Choity’s battle is a testimony of how precious life truly is; that nothing is impossible and with timely intervention, all we need is a little bit of faith and a whole lot of love.