Altering the Future: A Look at Life-Changing Surgeries

by Wellness Editor – MH

It’s safe to say that few people look forward to undergoing surgical procedures. Many surgeries take several hours to perform, and require months of tedious rehabilitation afterwards. Though surgical appointments are often a dreaded experience, they are usually necessary to repair traumatic injuries or to mend damage from chronic physical conditions.

While people living in previous eras would have marveled at even the most routine surgical procedure, in modern times surgery is considered a rather pedestrian event. Medical science never stops pushing the frontiers of its capabilities, however, and it’s not hard to find news stories about surgical breakthroughs. Take the case of Zara Hartshorn, a 16-year old Briton with a rare skin disorder. Despite being just a teenager, Hartshorm’s face appeared similar to that of a 60 year old woman, a medical phenomenon that effectively crippled her social life.

After years of social ostracization, Hartshorm was willing to quite literally cross an ocean to fix her problem. In 2013, the teenager received a free facelift from a plastic surgeon in Austin, Texas (the surgeon had offered to perform the surgery pro bono after hearting of Hartshorm’s plight). The results of the procedure were nothing short of miraculous; the cosmetic effects of the skin disorder have been virtually eradicated, and Hartshorm now has a face to match her age.

Zara Hartshorm’s transformation is far from the only example of a successful experimental surgery. Below are some recent news stories involving life-altering surgical procedures.

  • In early 2013, a 20-year old Zimbabwe native underwent the first of three surgeries designed to repair his jaw. The man, Blessing Makwera, had suffered the injury back in 2008, after his cousin handed him a strange object that had been resting on the ground. The object, with two wires sticking out if its structure, perplexed both Makera and his cousin. Curious as to its purpose, Makera placed the device in his mouth, allowing him to connect its wires to his cell phone battery with his free hands.Unfortunately for Makera, the mysterious object turned out to be a land mine detonator, a device used for destroying clusters of land mines. The resulting explosion greatly disfigured the then-fifteen year old teenager, costing him most  of his jaw and teeth and part of his tongue. Makera’s story eventually reached Operation of Hope Worldwide, a philanthropic organization that helps children in developing nations get needed surgeries for facial deformities. The three procedures are expected to greatly improve Makera’s ability to talk and eat.
  • In April 2013, surgeons set about fixing the legs of four year old Kaydence Leether. Hailing from St. Thomas, Ontario, Leether was born with a condition that left her knees facing sharply inward, resulting in immense and constant pain while walking. Leether’s legs were in such poor shape that she faced a strong possibility of losing her ability to walk altogether. That changed dramatically following her procedure, which was performed by surgeons in a Montreal hospital. The surgery alleviated much of the muscle tightness in the young child’s legs. Though she still needs the assistance of a walker, Kaydence no longer experiences excruciating pain when moving, and may be able to one day walk independently.
  • Ria Stonehouse, a six-year old British girl, also traveled across the pond to seek treatment from US doctors. Stonehouse was born with cerebral palsy, rendering her unable to fully use her legs and reliant upon a walker to move. The results from the surgery, which was performed at St Louis Children’s Hospital, have been very encouraging to Ria and her family. As of the summer of 2012, Ria was able to walk up to 18 steps without a walker, and her parents were hopeful that she could walk unassisted in one year’s time.
  • In 2011, a two-year old Oscar Waisanen underwent a series of surgeries to remove a mole from his forehead. At first glance, such a procedure might seem like overkill. After all, how could the presence of a mere mole necessitate surgery for a two year old? The answer is that the mole covered the top half of the left side of Waisanen’s head. In addition to its cosmetic impact, Oscar’s mole was extremely sensitive and injury-prone, and could have become cancerous. Aside from some relatively minor surgical scars, Oscar’s face now looks perfectly normal, and he appears set to enjoy a happy and healthy life.

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