In a surgery on Friday, doctors at Gokuldas Tejpal (GT) Hospital reduced the spinal column of eight-year-old Ravita Valvi, a tribal girl from Nandurbar, to correct her fractured spinal bone and add support through rods and screws to help her sit.
“It was a successful surgery. A lot of fibrous tissues were removed. Her nerve fibres have been considerably damaged but a few were intact. We can only hope that some sensation returns,” said orthopaedic surgeon Dr Dhiraj Sonawane.
Doctors corrected her lower spinal bone where L1 (lumbar) and D12 region of spine was fractured, compressing her nerves.
Ravita had suffered a fall on September 29 in Dhadgaon block of Nandurbar district in north Maharashtra. Lack of health facilities forced her to travel 467 km to Mumbai to seek treatment for a spinal injury that led to paralysis. Her journey in the past one month highlights the lack of health infrastructure in Maharashtra, where referrals are necessary due to lack of basic diagnostic facilities.
According to Dr Sonawane, Ravita’s nerves have been decompressed post-surgery, but whether sensation in her legs will return or bowel movements become voluntary remains a question mark.
In GT Hospital, where Ravita remains admitted since October 18 after visiting five government hospitals between Nandurbar and Mumbai, her rehabilitation and physiotherapy procedure will commence once she recovers physically. Until now, she could only lie straight, experiencing pain at slight movement. From Saturday, she will be able to sit with support.
Nurse Nirmal Valvi, who hails from Nandurbar, helps doctors communicate with Ravita’s parents, Shanti and Rajya, who understand little Marathi and speak tribal Bhili. On Thursday, he counselled them over her surgery and medical condition, explaining that “walking may never be possible for Ravita”.
The couple carried their daughter, leaving 10 other children behind, on bamboo sticks to a rural hospital in Dhadgaon after she fell from a tree. She was paralysed waist down. Lack of X-ray facility at the rural hospital forced them to visit Nandurbar civil hospital. From there, after a week’s treatment, they went to Dhule civil hospital, which said she required super-specialty services.
The girl was then brought to KEM Hospital in Mumbai. After her parents faced language problems, they carried her from Parel to Colaba where a woman police officer found them. She took them to St George Hospital, from where they were referred to GT Hospital.