A 13-year-old boy who was left an outcast in his village in India because his head hung upside down has risked life changing surgery to straighten his neck. Mahendra Ahirwar suffers from a rare condition called congenital myopathy which has made his muscles in his neck so weak his head would hang at a 180-degree angle. His parents Mukesh Ahirwar, 41, and mother Sumitra Ahirwar, 36, spent years taking him to see doctors but no one could help. But now, the teenager has undergone life-changing surgery by a former NHS surgeon after a mother-of-two from Liverpool set up a crowd-funding page raising £12,000 for treatment.
Spinal surgeon, Dr Rajagopalan Krishnan, from Apollo Hospital, in Delhi, performed the operation after Julie Jones made it possible. His incredible story will be shown tonight on Channel 5 Extraordinary People series. The documentary follows the family as they travel thousands of miles on an over night train from their village to India’s capital city for the risky surgery that could kill Mahendra.
In a first of its kind, operation Dr, Krishnan, who worked for the NHS for 15 years before returning to India to help extreme medical cases, operated on Mahendra’s spine. Dr Krishnan and his team opened up the front part of his neck – leaving the front of his cervical spine completely exposed because of his extraordinarily thin skin. The film follows the family and Mahendra in surgery as he endures a ten hour operation. They removed the disks from his neck, and replaced them with bone graft from his pelvis and then fit a metal plate to secure the neck straight.
The incredible surgery follows a MailOnline story about the daily struggles of Mahendra, who comes from Madhya Pradesh in central India. Two years ago, his parents stopped taking him to see doctors altogether as it seemed no-one could help. But with life a constant struggle, and Mahdendra in constant pain, they even admitted they would rather their son died than continue to suffer. As soon as Mahendra wakes up in the morning, he relied on his mother to feed him, bath him and dress him. While his sister, Manisha and little brother Surendra, eight, went to school and his older brother Lalit tried to find work, he was left at home. Even his friends used to leave him - while he watched them play, he could never join in.
It was after reading his tragic plight that mother-of-two, Ms Jones decided she wanted to help. ‘It was tragic. All I could think about was my own son and how I’d feel if he was in that situation,’ she said. ‘While everyone was looking to help, no one was actually doing anything. So there and then, I got out my laptop, found a crowd-funding website and created an account.’
Within 28 days, the page had raised £12,000 but she never imagined her kind actions would eventually lead to Mahendra having surgery and them meeting. The careers co-ordinator at a secondary school was flown to Delhi to meet Mahendra three days after his surgery.
‘As part of the documentary, the producers wanted to fly me to India to meet Mahendra. ‘I’d never been further than Spain on holiday and was scared of flying. But I was keen to meet Mahendra in the flesh so I agreed. ‘When I arrived in Delhi the noise and exotic smells hit me instantly. ‘It was hard going, especially with the film cameras in my face. I felt vulnerable and barely slept the first night but when I finally met Mahendra and his family at the hospital it was all worth it. ‘His mum cried when she met me which then got me going.’
Even though she was only in Delhi for a couple of days, she quickly bonded with Mahendra. ‘I wasn’t prepared for the love I’d feel for him,’ she said. ‘Meeting the boy whose photos I knew so well was both harrowing and uplifting. I was amazed to see him so thin. ‘By the time I was due to leave, I was an emotional wreck and just didn’t want to go.