Sukaina with Dr Ahmad Thabet (right) and Dr Robert Veres. During the surgical procedure, the doctors cut part of the skull bone and adjusted it to make room for her brain. Image Credit: Courtesy: Mafraq Hospital

Abu Dhabi: Sukaina is able to walk on her own again, after fearing that she would have to live the rest of her life as a quadriplegic.

After living a normal life, the 11-year-old from Morocco suddenly began losing all ability to move her hands and legs.

Her frantic parents did not know what was happening to her, and after six months of seeing their daughter’s condition worsening, they decided to seek specialist medical advice.

It was then that a rare congenital genetic deformity was revealed.

Sukaina, one of a pair of identical twins, had a displaced vertebra near the neck that was compressing her brain stem, the part of the brain that controls essential internal mechanisms like heartbeat and respiration.

Sukaina, who was admitted to Mafraq Hospital, and her family were then told about a 10-hour surgery that was expected to help her regain her limb functions.

“Sukaina had sustained a neck injury from a fall earlier this year. This led to her displaced vertebra becoming unstable and compressing her brain stem,” explained Dr Ahmad Thabet, specialist neurosurgeon at Mafraq Hospital.

“Children fall a lot, but injuries to the neck should not be ignored. Parents should seek specialist medical advice if a child has hurt himself or herself around the neck as such injuries can sometimes become fatal,” he cautioned.

The doctor said Sukaina, whose condition had been deteriorating, could have ended up bedridden without the right treatment.

“Her deformity could even have become fatal because breathing difficulties would eventually arise,” he added.

During the surgical procedure, Dr Robert Veres, consultant neurosurgeon at Mafraq Hospital, and Dr Thabet, along with two other doctors, cut part of the skull bone and adjusted it to ‘make room’ for her brain. They then attached the skull with a metal fixture to the vertebrae at an angle that would allow Sukaina normal movement.

She was hospitalised for two weeks following the operation, and was soon able to move her hands and slowly walk on her own.

“Sukaina’s future treatment will involve a follow-up in six months’ time, and regular physiotherapy,” Dr Thabet said.

He also urged parents not to play down trauma to the neck region.

“Sukaina’s congenital deformity and case is extremely rare, but all neck injuries should be prioritised and treated,” he said.