Toddler embraces life after cleft hand surgery

Abu Dhabi: Muntaha Mohammad is now a happy two-year-old who likes to babble. She loves repeating animal sounds and the alphabet, and is very fond of cats and dogs.

But the toddler still cannot walk. As Gulf News reported in May 2016, she was born with rare cleft hand and leg deformities that affect only one in a million babies worldwide, and her parents are increasingly anxious about giving her a normal life.

Fortunately, the generosity of Gulf News readers, coupled with substantial grants from the Emirates Red Crescent and Zakat Fund, allowed Muntaha to undergo successful surgeries in the United States last year. The two muscle reconstructive procedures allowed Muntaha, who was born with four fingers on her left hand and three digits on her right, to gain better dexterity, Somia Khadir, her mother, told Gulf News.

“I cannot express enough gratitude that my baby girl, who was born after five years of marriage, has been able to get help with her condition. She has a better grip now, even without five digits on each hand, and can even handle a spoon. But there is a long way to go still,” Khadir, 34, from Pakistan, said.

For these hand surgeries, Khadir, a homemaker, had to travel to Los Angeles with Muntaha and her brother, and stayed on for about two months while the surgeries and physical therapies were completed.

The next step is to correct Muntaha’s leg deformities. Her legs are bowed inwards because she lacks the tibia, the larger, inner bone located between the knee and ankle. In addition she has only two toes on each foot.

“These corrective procedures are so rare that we couldn’t find surgeons based in the UAE. The specialist who has agreed to perform the leg surgeries is in Florida, and he recommended that Muntaha get the operations when she was 18 months old. But she is already past that age and we have no funds,” Khadir said.

According to a medical report by surgeons at Florida-based St Mary’s Medical Centre, Muntaha will need three extensive leg surgeries, followed by up to 34 weeks of physical therapy. The estimated cost after a 30 per cent discount offered by the facility is $237,787 (Dh873,400).

“I worry because Muntaha is already two years old. Mentally, I feel she is ahead of other children her age. But she needs to learn to walk to be able to have a normal life,” Khadir said.

She herself is a homemaker, and her husband, a restaurant business development manager, brings home only about Dh5,000 each month.

“I am willing to even work if it will help us collect funds. I have a degree in Business Administration. If I get a job, I’d be happy to enrol Muntaha in a nursery, especially as she loves interacting with other children,” Khadir added.

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