AUSTIN (KXAN) — Three million cases of scoliosis are diagnosed in the United States every year.
The curvature of the spine can be painful and debilitating, but in this country there are medical solutions such as surgery. That is not the case if you are in a poor, developing country such as Sri Lanka. But a Sri Lankan teenager is in Austin Wednesday, scheduled for surgery Thursday thanks to the non-profit SpineHope and Dell Children’s Medical Center.
At the Seton Spine & Scoliosis Center, Dr. Matthew Geck says, “Ten out of 10 doctors would think she needs this. It’s a severe case and it’s not going to do well if we leave it alone.” He is speaking of 15-year-old Suharshi Drbrera, who has been in constant pain for the past four years. She has been wearing a brace to control the pain, but she says it’s made her feel isolated, “I feel uncomfortable when people stare at me, so I just stay home alone all the time.”
There is no surgeon in Sri Lanka capable of the complex procedure to straighten, then fuse the spine. Suharshi’s family annual income of $4,000 couldn’t touch the $150,000 cost of the procedure. Her dad, Lalindra Dbrera, went on the internet and learned of SpineHope and their donor doctors. He reached out to them and they agreed to fly Suharshi to Austin. Lalindra is moist eyed when he says, “I give my thanks, they have done a great job. It’s a miracle for me, a real miracle.”
Suharshi is equally grateful, “They made a big thing for my life, I’m very grateful for that. She has plans for when she returns home, “I’ll play with my friends again and I’ll start swimming again.” She also says she has new plans when she gets a little older, “In the future I would like to be a spine surgeon so I can help kids just like me.”
After her six hour surgery, Suharshi will remain in Austin for a month for her recovery to be monitored. Hers is another happy story for SpineHope, which arranges for teams of doctors to go around the world to provide life-changing surgeries for children in need. They also bring children like Suharshi to the United States if they are unable to receive treatment in their native land. For more information you can visit their website here.