x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'Perfect' op on Indian baby's swollen head

Doctors carried out life-saving surgery yesterday on an Indian baby suffering from a rare disorder that caused her head to swell to nearly double its size.

NEW DELHI // Doctors carried out life-saving surgery yesterday on an Indian baby suffering from a rare disorder that caused her head to swell to nearly double its size.

Film of the surgery on 15-month-old Roona Begum shows doctors using a surgical drill to pierce her skull before draining fluid from her head in an operation lasting more than an hour.

The child's parents, who have spent the past month at the hospital on the outskirts of New Delhi, spoke of their joy and relief after the operation that doctors described as exemplary.

"The surgery went perfectly, much better than expected," said the neurosurgeon, Sandeep Vaishya. "It's definitely a success but it's too early to say what the quality of her future life will be like."

Roona was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that causes cerebrospinal fluid to build up on the brain. She was found in an Indian village last month living with parents who are too poor to pay for treatment.

Publication of pictures from the remote north-east state of Tripura prompted a hospital, run by the private Fortis Healthcare group, to offer to treat Roona free of charge.

Mr Vaishya, who heads the hospital's neurosurgery unit, made a series of incisions along the right side of her head and stomach during the operation.

He then used a drill to pierce her skull before inserting a shunt, catheter and valve. Doctors were then able to drain the fluid out of her head and towards her abdomen, where it could be absorbed easily into the bloodstream.

Her father, Abdul Rahman, 18, who was too nervous to speak to the doctors on the morning of the operation, said he was "hugely relieved" that the surgery was successful.

"My wife and I were both so worried this morning. But now when the doctor says everything went well, I feel hugely relieved. It's been a stressful wait," Mr Rahman said.

When Roona was born, local doctors told her parents to take her to a private hospital in a big city, but the costs were too high for Mr Rahman, an illiterate labourer who earns US$2.75 (Dh10.13) a day.

Roona's condition had caused her head to swell to a circumference of 94 centimetres, putting pressure on her brain and making it impossible for her to sit upright or crawl.

On admission, Mr Vaishya estimated that her head amounted to half her total weight.

Two Norwegian college students, Jonas Borchgrevink and Nathalie Krantz, started an online campaign that raised $52,000 to help Roona's family and fund future aftercare.

The students said they had already established contact with a local media website in Tripura that would help to send the money to the family.