A young woman from Papua New Guinea is heading home after life changing surgery at Epworth Richmond.
Sonia Paua suffered a chronic bone infection in her leg that caused pain, severe deformity, and problems with mobility.
Surgery at an early age to remove the diseased bone left a lasting impairment. With one leg significantly shorter than the other, Sonia struggled to get to school due to the constant pain and required a crutch to walk.
Before the emergence of COVID-19 last year, Sonia was brought to Melbourne by charity Children First Foundation, for treatment by Epworth Orthopaedic Surgeon Professor Minoo Patel.
Professor Patel performed two operations on Sonia on a pro-bono basis. The hospital costs, theatre staff and prosthesis inserted into Sonia’s leg were also donated.
A device was inserted into her femur (thigh) bone leg, to lengthen it, while a frame was also fitted to Sonia’s lower leg to lengthen the tibia (shin) bone and correct severe ankle deformity.
“With the device inserted into Sonia’s leg, we were able to lengthen it millimetre by millimetre over several months,” Professor Patel said.
“In total, we have added 11 centimetres to her leg, dramatically improving her mobility.”
After two operations and months of rehabilitation at the Children First Foundation retreat in Kilmore, Professor Patel has given Sonia the all-clear to return home to her family in PNG.
Sonia has dreams of becoming a doctor and can’t wait to get home.
“I am looking forward to reuniting with my family and can’t wait to continue my education,” Sonia said.
“The surgery has made my legs the same length and this has given me confidence to walk well. I believe it will make my everyday life easier and enjoyable.”
Professor Patel had no hesitation in taking on this surgery, saying it’s pleasing to know he’s helped change Sonia’s life.
“It took me about a second to say yes,” Prof Patel said.
“As surgeons, we love a challenge, but it gives me satisfaction and joy to do things to help people. There’s the satisfaction in getting it right and then seeing it on their faces – it beats ever other feeling in the world.”
“Watching Sonia walk down the hall was an extraordinary moment. It was a partnership. Sonia put just as much work into this as I did.”