World-first surgery to remove third leg gives Bangladeshi girl new-found freedom


Surgeons at Melbourne's Monash Children’s Hospital have completed seven hours of complex world-first reconstructive surgery on a two year-old girl, born with a third leg.

Melbourne surgeons have performed a life-changing operation on a two-year-old Bangladeshi girl, removing the third leg she had been born with.

Choity is outwardly healthy, but the third leg attached to the back of her pelvis meant her diagnosis was complicated, and the surgery to fix her even more so.

The third leg was partially removed in a Bangladeshi hospital shortly after birth, but she was left with two colostomies, a dysfunctional renal anatomy and is vision impaired.

But there were guardian angels in Choity's future: Atom Rahman from the Children First Foundation, who works in Bangladesh providing much needed medical assistance in the county's many slums.

He identified Choity as a potential recipient of the operation, and he is in Australia to provide support to Choity's mother, Shima Khatunto, throughout the surgery process and recovery.

“For her to have this operation done in Australia is a completely life-changing operation - without it she would struggle all her life,” he told SBS News.

Monash Children's Hospital surgeons
Associate Professor, Dr Chris Kimber leads a team of surgeons at Monash Children's Hospital for Choity's seven hour surgery. (SBS News)
SBS News

The Children First Foundation identifies children in developing nations in need of medical or surgical care and matches them with surgeons and other medical professionals.

The toddler and her 22 year-old mother have spent the past three months living at a farm north of Melbourne owned by the foundation, and Pat Weldon, who manages the retreat, and says Choity has come out of her shell since she arrived.

“Because she was partially blind, she wasn’t inclined to head outside very much,” he told SBS News.

“But here, it’s safe, she can run around. The other kids all love her, so she’s spoiled rotten.”

Associate Professor Dr Chris Kimber, head of surgery at Monash Children's Hospital, spent the past two months consulting a range of experts from around the world to plan Choity's complicated surgery.

“To remove the remainder of the leg from within the pelvis and then we'd like to be able to reconstruct some normal genitalia and a normal pelvis because that doesn't exist now,” he told SBS News.

Dr Kimber said another objective of the surgery was to enable a reversal of the two colostomies Choity relied on.

“We can't have her using catheters. We can't have her being dependent on lots of sanitary aids," he said.

"We have to devise an operation that allows her to live in her local community and not be at risk of sudden infection or death from sudden infection.”

Choity's mother, Ms Khatunto is looking forward to what her daughter's life might be following the operation. 

“I'd be so excited if she gets better and words can't express how happy and excited I would be if she gets better,” she said.

Painstaking operation

Dr Kimber led a team of surgeons from Myanmar, Bhutan, Vietnam and Fiji in the painstaking seven hour operation.

“Children like this are very rare, there are very few children ever born like this anywhere in the world," he said.

"They represent real challenges for us, because we've got no pathway to follow.”

Speaking to SBS News just minutes after Choity's surgery was finished, Dr Kimber was optimistic.

“We're hopeful that she's got full urinary continence so as long as all goes to plan we're very pleased with the design and the outcome of the procedure,” he said.

“In terms of what we set out to achieve, the operation went according to plan and we're all happy.”

Post-surgery, Choity will have several follow up appointments with Dr Kimber and his team, and there are already early signs of success.

The two colostomies are no longer required and as she begins physiotherapy the toddler will learn to use her re-formed muscles.

It is hoped the operation will give Choity, who will soon turn three, more freedom in the remote Bangladeshi village where she and her family live.

Ms Khatunto hopes Choity may be well enough to return home after Christmas.

“My hope is my daughter is going to get cured and she will be healthy,” she said.

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