Leg operation gives man a new lease on life

2013-08-05 00:00

IN answer to a desperate prayer, and with the help of technology, there were scenes of elation in the Mntungwa home yesterday.

The reason for the celebration was that Trevor Mntungwa (25), who suffered from Blount’s disease, finally returned home after eight months of life-changing treatment to rectify a painful leg condition.

Blount’s disease, commonly known as “bandy legs”, is a growth disorder that causes the lower leg limbs to grow outward and angle inward.

Mntungwa, who lives in Demat, near Shallcross in Durban, said his disease proved a hindrance to his career, as he was unable to walk long distances for the community outreach projects he is involved in. He works at the international organisation Sword of the Spirit in Welbedacht West, Chatsworth.

“It was rough growing up with such a disease. You get teased and you get bullied in some or other way,” he said.

“We sometimes have to walk long distances for feeding schemes and I had to get my legs sorted out. My friend suggested we upload a video to YouTube, to see if there was anybody who could help, but without much luck.

“One day, I was on the Internet watching my video online and I prayed. I heard God telling me to Google the word ‘orthopaedic’ and the first name I saw would be the name of the doctor who would help me.”

The first name that appeared in his search result was world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon Dr Franz Birkholtz.

He e-mailed Birkholtz the link to his YouTube video and the doctor, with the backing of the Netcare Unitas Hospital in Centurion, agreed to give Mntung­wa a new lease on life, free of charge.

In December 2012, Birkholtz began the surgery with his Russian counterpart, Dr Alexander Cherkashin, at the Netcare Unitas Hospital.

The first operation on December 7 involved fixing his legs in cumbersome braces.

“This was followed by carefully cutting through Trevor’s bone and then gradually straightening his legs over seven months using the external fixators,” explained Dr Birkholtz.

The fixator adjustments were calculated using advanced computer software.

“The braces were removed [on Friday] and Trevor can now walk without the aid of the bulky device on the outside of his legs. With lots of exercise, I expect he will soon be able to walk with ease,” Birkholtz said.

After returning home on Friday, Mntungwa said that as soon as he is able to walk without crutches, he will buy a bicycle.

“I also want to continue helping the people I’ve been helping, because I believe that it was through this that God has also helped me. I also could not have done this without my mother, Happy, who is such a brave and supportive woman,” he said.

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