Happy and healing

2018-10-01 15:40
The Schröder family pose for a picture with Angelique following her surgery in July this year. From left: Kian (8), Dirk, Angelique and Anna Schröder are all happy with her progress.

The Schröder family pose for a picture with Angelique following her surgery in July this year. From left: Kian (8), Dirk, Angelique and Anna Schröder are all happy with her progress. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg four-year-old Ange­lique Schröder has feeling in her finger, just a month-and-a-half after the groundbreaking operation which saw her toe transplanted as a finger. 

Angelique, who was born without a right hand and most of her left arm due to a condition called symbrachydactyly, had doctors amputate a toe from her right foot and graft it onto her right hand as a pinky finger in late July this year.

The Witness had previously reported in August this year that the four-year-old underwent an 11-hour operation at a Cape Town hospital to attach the amputated toe to her right hand.

The operation — the first of its kind in South Africa — was declared a success.

Following the operation, Angelique’s father, Dirk Schröder, said he had been told by doctors that his daughter would only begin to get feeling in her finger six months after the surgical procedure.

However, after just a month-and-a- half, the preschooler already has feeling in the finger.

“She is doing really well,” said Schröder. “The pins are all out and although doctors told us she would not have feeling in her finger for at least six months, a month-and-a-half later she started to get feeling in the finger. It was amazing.”

Schröder said Angelique had been going for occupational therapy once a week so that the therapist can train Ange­lique’s brain to control the finger.

“She has never had to use that part of her brain before and now she is learning how to train her brain so she can move her fingers ...

“She is absolutely loving it. She is painting her nails all different colours and showing them off,” he said with a laugh.

Schröder added that the healing process was going well, however, she was not back at school just yet. He said the doctors were worried about the stitches, and that they might get infected from playing in the sandpit, or ripped open from playing with other children.

Doctors had previously taken bones from both of her feet and grafted her a ring finger, middle finger, and a thumb, for her right hand.

Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town released a statement on the surgery recently. “At just over one year of age Dr Mark van der Velde performed a third bone graft to then lengthen her thumb. All of these small bone grafts helped to lengthen the little she had and gave her a very basic fine pinch grasp,” said the statement.

Up until fairly recently, toe to hand transfers for congenital hand conditions were thought to be too technically demanding, and unlikely to confer much benefit.

In South Africa over the past 15 years, several toe transfers have been performed on adults who have lost digits in accidents. There was one toe to thumb transfer in a child who had suffered burns 10 years ago, however, “there has never been a paediatric toe transfer for a child born without fingers”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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