Stephanie Oghenefegho (15), spent a lot of time on the internet last year obsessively researching every aspect of scoliosis. The 5ft 8in teenager from Nigeria, who was diagnosed with the condition that leads to the curving of the spine, was determined that she would not wear braces like two other girls in her residential school, who also suffered from the same condition.
Stephanie’s mother Agatha travelled extensively in search of a solution. She finally found her way to Chennai and last week, Stephanie was operated on at Apollo Hospitals. Tomorrow, she will return to Nigeria and will be back in school this academic year, standing tall.
Stephanie first realised that she was not walking straight two years ago. “I could not wear my uniform. My friend called me and asked, ‘Are you having the same problem as me?’ and I went through the internet to learn all about it,” she said. She was especially reluctant to wear braces because the climate in her country was not suitable for it. “A few of my friends, who have the same condition, too were advised to wear braces but do not do so rigorously as it is very uncomfortable,” she said.
Agatha, a TV show host in Nigeria, told reporters at a press meet organised by Apollo Hospitals on Wednesday that she went to the UK and Germany in search of the perfect braces but did not find anything suitable. “At London, a friend told me about spine surgeon Dr. Sajan K. Hegde and thus, we came to Chennai, she said. Stephanie will be able to attend school the entire year and graduate, she said.
Like Stephanie, three others — Haider Kadhum Fatay, a 33-year-old engineer from Iraq, Eric Millican, (65), from California and Julia Obur Deng Lual, mother of five and wife of a deputy minister from South Sudan — chose Chennai for treatment. Mr. Millican, an avid sports buff, suffered from progressive paralysis of his limbs. He has undergone a complex reconstruction of the cervical spine. The other two patients said they had to contend with back pain and chose India for treatment because of the confidence they had in the doctor.
Dr. Hegde, whose team performed the surgeries on the patients, said the cost of the surgery was much lower here than in other countries.
For instance, Mr. Millican’s surgery costs $50,000 in the US but only $15,000 in India.