Meet Mahendra Ahirwar, a 13-year-old boy from a village in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which is in central India. Born with a rare condition, congenital myopathy, the muscles in his neck were so weak that his head hung at a 180-degree angle. His every waking moment was agony and he was entirely dependent on his family and friends for care. Mahendra’s struggles were so great that his parents actually wished for his death as a way to end his suffering. Instead, a revolutionary new surgery has been performed that has everyone, especially Mahendra, seeing the world from a new angle.
From an early age, it was clear Mahendra had problems. His parents, 41-year-old Mukesh Ahirwar and 36-year-old Sumitra Ahirwar, took their son to over fifty doctors throughout India. For ten years, no one was able to help. Everyone suggested any sort of operation would kill the child. So for the last two years, Mahendra had stayed at home, wondering when he would die. His family did their best to keep him company, but work and school forced everyone to leave him alone for long stretches of the day. During those times, he was unable to drink any water. His friends tried to raise his spirits, but he could only sit and watch them. His condition prevented him from joining in.
There was no reason to suspect that things would ever change for Mahendra and his family. They had no idea that thousands of miles away, in England, Julie Jones had raised $17,000 through a crowdfunding website to pay for a first of its kind surgery to help the 13-year-old. The money went to pay for an operation by the world-renowned spinal surgeon, Rajagopalan Krishnan. Mahendra and his family were taken by train to the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi. There, Dr. Krishnan performed a 10-hour long operation. He removed the disks from the boy’s neck and replaced them with a bone graft from his pelvis. He then secured everything with a metal plate to ensure the neck remained straight.
After two weeks of recovery in the hospital, the transformation is miraculous. Mahendra will wear a neck brace for six months, but already his voice is stronger, he breathes easier, and can eat and drink on his own. With the assistance of an electric wheelchair, he is able to get around his village with ease. The boy is finally able to play with his friends and has started to learn how to write. There is hope that Mahendra will eventually be able to attend school and catch up on his education. While numerous follow-ups are still required with Dr. Krishnan, the future is finally looking up for this Indian teenager.