Delicate spinal surgery in the Caribbean saves woman from paralysis

Bevan Springer | 3/29/2018, 1:44 p.m.

CAYMAN ISLANDS (March 29, 2018)—Neurosurgeons at Health City Cayman Islands have restored a patient’s ability to walk by removing a tumor embedded within her spinal cord in a highly complicated operation in the Caribbean.

The patient, a 43-year-old woman from Myanmar, was working as a bartender on a cruise ship in the Caribbean when she noticed puzzling symptoms that eventually led to a loss of mobility in her arms and legs.

Three months after the surgery, Dr. Susheel Wadhwa, the senior neuro and spinal surgeon at Health City, was delighted to hear from former spinal cord tumor patient May Thu that she was able to walk slowly unassisted. At the time, she was receiving follow-up treatment at a clinic in her home country and was looking forward to returning to her residence.

“She is making a phenomenal recovery from being wheelchair bound to where she is today,” he said. “Many patients with this condition often end up paralyzed from the neck downwards.”

Wadhwa recalled diagnosing Thu with “features of spinal cord compression,” where a “tumor inside the spinal cord was compressing all her nerves from within,” causing discomfort, painful incapacitation and loss of mobility.

Deciding to operate, Wadhwa, who was assisted by fellow neuro and spinal surgeon Dr. Manjunatha Kandala, knew it was going to be a difficult task because such tumors allowed only a very small margin for error because the spinal cord is very delicate with all nerves packed together, and even the slightest injury to any part of the spinal cord could have what he called, “devastating complications.”

In a long and complex operation, the Health City surgery team successfully removed the entire tumor without any damage to the spinal cord and stabilized the spine with screws and rods.

Recognizing all of his colleagues, Wadhwa noted what was needed for the success of such a complicated operation. “It is only a team that works like all of us do that makes this happen,” he explained.

Before being discharged from the hospital five weeks after the operation, Thu said she was “very glad and very happy” to be able to walk with the aid of a walker.

Thu said the Health City surgeons spared her from spending the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Furthermore, she had nothing but praise for the way she was treated, before and after the operation, with Health City staff explaining everything to her and constantly checking on her during her recovery.