On Monday, November 19th, Zainabu and Nalari flew out of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, with Agness, the Stand Tall International caretaker to FOCOS hospital in Ghana. Stand Tall International has partnered with FOCOS (The Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine) for 4 previous surgeries, including Nalari’s first spinal fusion. We’ll touch on why Nalari had to return to FOCOS below.
First, we want to thank everyone who contributed to Stand Tall in 2018. Because of your efforts and donations, Zainabu is going to have the spinal surgery she has waited for her entire life. Unfortunately, the two times Zainabu was supposed to go for surgery previously, another child that was more critical bumped her at the last minute. But in early 2018 we discovered, Zainabu couldn’t wait any longer, that’s why it was urgent for us to raise the funds we needed to get her on a plane. The surgery will allow her to breath, eat, walk and finally attend school again.
In severe cases of scoliosis, halo-gravity traction may be an important part of the treatment. The use of halo-gravity traction removes the impact of gravity on the spine deformity, elongating the spine and stretching out surrounding soft tissue. Zainabu had a curve of 165 degrees, which meant halo was necessary.
The first week of December, Zainabu received her "halo,” the ring device that is held in place on the skull using several pins. Once the ring is attached, traction is immediately applied through the halo, and gradually increased according to the direction of the physician. Below you can scroll through pictures of Zainabu through out the “halo” process.
On February 1st, over two months after her arrival in Ghana, Zainabu’s doctors informed us that her traction is nearly complete. The one major factor holding Zainabu back from receiving surgery immediately, is the fact that she is underweight. Since her 165 degree curve was crushing her organs, she’s never been able to eat enough to maintain a healthy weight. The next few weeks Zainabu will focus on putting on weight, weight that will allow her body to handle a major surgery as well as recover properly and in a timely manner. More updates on Zainabu to come.
As for Nalari, she had to return to Ghana with Zainabu and Agness because since her surgery in 2015 her spine had begun to curve again. This is not atypical when it comes to spinal fusions on children. The first surgery that Nalari received allowed her to grow normally. She actually began to grow more than the “growing rods” would allow. She had to return for a second time for longer rods.
In early December, Nalari had her second spinal surgery. She was up and walking two days post-operation. She struggled at first but with the encouragement of the incredible doctors at FOCOS and Agness she was able to stand on her own and walk within a week. She was feeling like herself on Christmas and had the Nalari smile we know and love stretched across her face. She was discharged from FOCOS at the end of January and will be returning home to Tanzania in the first week of February.
Scroll through the photo carousel below.
For daily updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram (@standtallinternational). If you would like to send Zainabu a personal message to keep her spirits up you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to send hand-written letters to our mailing address, 1733 S. Mansfield Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019.