A true mother’s touch: In 15 hours of surgery, a mother’s bone graft saved her newborn son’s spine, which was damaged at birth


Sixteen-month-old Onu has spent most of her life in the hospital. He was shunned by his mother because he damaged his spine at birth, but it was his mother’s bones that eventually repaired his spine, forming the most unique bond that would otherwise make him a year old. gave him a life that would not have made him laugh with joy on his birthday.

How a baby’s spine breaks during childbirth

He was a big baby, weighing 4.3 kg compared to normal weight of 2.5 kg to 3.5 kg. Probably because of his mother’s gestational diabetes. So when doctors rescued him during childbirth, they compressed a nerve in his shoulder and broke his spine around his neck. “The first sign that something was wrong was when we saw that his left arm was completely immobile. He said it could have been and that it would improve on its own within a few weeks,” said Sumit Kumar, Onu’s father, who lives in Meerut. Doctors kept Onu in the ICU on oxygen for several weeks. However, when he returned home, his parents found that he was not breathing properly. “I consulted a leading doctor who treats brachial plexus injuries, but he suspected a spinal cord injury. So I had to wait three months for my next spine MRI,” Kumar says.

Diagnosis Challenges for Surgeons

When a spine MRI confirmed their worst fears, their parents rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi. The baby was only four months old, and doctors at the country’s best laboratories were at a loss as to what to do. It was then that Dr. Deepak Gupta of AIIMS Trauma Center Neurosurgery published in a medical journal and spoke with experts around the world. “Usually for spinal injuries like this, titanium implants are used to stabilize the spine and keep it in place. It was too small to do,” he says.

These types of spinal cord injuries are rare. “I heard from the parents that the birth weight of the baby was 4.3 kg. If the baby is large, the doctor should perform a caesarean section instead of a normal delivery, otherwise the mother and child could be injured.” ,” explains Dr. Gupta. And gestational diabetes is one of the leading reasons for excess fetal weight these days, and Onu’s mother, Shalu, has a history of gestational diabetes. Kumar says: “My oldest son, who is now three years old, has grown even bigger. His birth weight was 3.7 kg because his wife had diabetes during pregnancy. She had to be on oxygen for the first few days. We told the doctors at the hospital in Meerut about this and if they had performed the caesarean section we could have brought home a healthy baby.”

Dr. Gupta investigated similar cases of spinal fractures in infants and found cases in the United States. “The baby fell off his mother’s lap and injured himself. In Onu’s case, he explains, the damage was too extensive for such repairs to be possible, and most babies have cartilaginous bone that cannot be used for such repairs. Then it occurred to him that he might be able to use his mother’s bones.

Why surgery was the only option for a 4-month-old baby

“If the injury hadn’t been so bad, we would have waited for the baby to grow. We decided to take bone from the hip joint and place it on a portion of the damaged spine as support to stabilize the spine,” says Dr. Gupta. Instead of operating from the back of his neck, doctors had to open him up in front because one of the damaged bone fragments had protruded inside his spinal column. This made the operation more difficult as well as anesthetizing the child.

The operation lasted 15 hours, of which it took seven hours for doctors to anesthetize Onu. At the same time, her mother underwent a 45-minute surgery to remove part of her hipbone at the OT next to her. In addition to Dr. Gupta, the team of doctors treating Onu includes Dr. GP Singh, Department of Neuroanaesthesiology, Dr. Akshay Jaliyar, Department of Neurophysiology, Dr. Shefari Gulati, Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Rakesh Roda, Dr. Juma Shankar, Dr. And Dr. Subord Garg of General Surgery was included.

ONU is finally back

Onu spent 11 months in the hospital’s intensive care unit before being discharged earlier this month. “He’s finally home,” Kumar said. But this reunion was bittersweet. Kumar is happy to be able to hold a naming ceremony that has been postponed due to his condition, but he will also have to wait and see how Onu’s limbs function. “The name Onu was just something I came up with on the spot because I had to write something on the hospital paperwork.

Onu gradually got used to the quietness of the house from the hustle and bustle of ICU. “The other day, when I took him to AIIMS for a routine check-up, he was very happy to see the doctors and nurses. They celebrated his 1st birthday with us. They are part of our family now,” Kumar says.



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