Perched on a hospital bed and surrounded by her family, eight-year-old Neha gets to taste solid food after more than six years. When she was eighteen months old, Neha had accidentally swallowed toilet cleaning acid that severely damaged her food pipe. But thanks to the doctors at Ahmedabad’s V S Hospital who replaced her oesophagus, Neha, a resident of a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Mau district, is now able to eat. “She could not even swallow her own saliva. We took her to Lucknow and put an artificial tube so that she could be fed liquid food. She remained underweight. We went to many hospitals, but the doctors refused to operate on her, saying that she was underweight,” said Neha’s father Ram Prakash, who works as a carpenter.
“We did not send her to school thinking that children will pull her tube. But now we are going back to enrol her in a school,” added Ram Prakash, unable to contain his happiness as his daughter asks for a piece of roti. The family came to Ahmedabad on the recommendation of the doctors in Lucknow. They arrived here two months ago and met doctors at the V S Hospital who performed the surgery free of cost.
“It was challenging to operate on an underweight child for various reasons. She weighed just 19.5 kg. But we decided to take up the challenge. We took a section of her small intestine and replaced the oesophagus, thereby creating a new link between her mouth and stomach,” Dr Hasmukh Vora, associate professor (surgical gastroenterology) at V S Hospital, said.
The operation, which was performed on May 9, lasted for five hours. “We have kept the artificial pipe so that the transition is easy from the artificial pipe to the new oesophagus. We will remove it soon and she can then eat whatever she wants. Her other vitals are in a good condition and she is doing fine,” Dr Vora added.
Neha was allowed to eat solids from May 15. She will be likely discharged from the hospital on Thursday.