After spending most of his life bent in half due to a severe form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, 46-year-old Li Hua is finally able to stand straight again.
Diagnosed with the condition at age 18, the patient from Yongzhou, China struggled for nearly three decades not being able to sit straight up, or lie flat in bed, MailOnline reports.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which mainly affects the spine, causes inflammation that often results in severe, chronic pain involving multiple other joints.
Severe cases find sufferers such as Hua to get sections of the spine in a fused, fixed position due to the formation of new bones, according to the Spondylitis Association of America.
Hua, who found it extremely difficult to just eat or drink, previously relied only his mother for care as he could not afford treatment.
Back in May, Professor Tao Huiren of Shenzhen University General Hospital found out about his case and decided to take it on.
Huiren offered to do a radical four-part procedure on Hua as his fixed posture poses a threat to his heart and lungs.
“Our only option was to break his bones one section at a time – femur, cervical vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae – and then straighten his entire spinal column,” Huiren was quoted as saying.
“The risks involved were 20-to-30 times that of a regular spinal surgery patient, and the chances of him becoming a paraplegic were also very high.”
With each step of the surgery, Hua experienced a significant change, gradually becoming more upright.
Huiren noted that Hua will soon be able to regain normal movements and walk again without help after a couple of months of therapy.
“Of course, he won’t be able to do anything too extreme like boxing or playing tennis, but all regular bodily movements will not be a problem,” the doctor noted.
Meanwhile, Hua was extremely grateful for being given a new lease on life.
“There would have been no cure for me without Dr. Tao,” Hua said. “He’s my savior, and my gratitude to him is second only to my mother.”
Featured image via AsiaWire/Shenzhen University General Hospital