Hadi Alkhadra is a small boy with a huge grin. He's got reason to smile: After living for years with a severe congenital defect that made it challenging to stand and impossible to walk, the 6-year-old Palestinian boy is on his feet. Last fall, Hadi and his mother came around the world from the Tulkarem refugee camp in the West Bank, Palestine to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford so that he could receive several months of orthopedic surgeries and physical therapy.
The treatments address Hadi's arthrogryposis, a condition that is analogous to polio in utero. Before he was born, some of the motor centers on Hadi's spinal cord were damaged, probably by a virus. Some of the muscles that are supposed to move his knees, ankles and feet do not work normally. As a result, before treatment, his feet pointed backward and his knees had very restricted motion, bending only a small amount in the wrong direction. From the hospital's press release about his journey:
With assistance from the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, Hadi and mom Shireen have traveled 7,500 miles to receive care from orthopaedic surgeon Lawrence Rinsky, MD, who has led Hadi's successful surgeries at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. Though there is no complete cure, with the assistance of braces and our Rehabilitation Services team, Hadi is now able to wear shoes for the first time, stand with his feet flat, leave his new wheelchair and start walking.
A warm, outgoing and intelligent young man, Hadi has become a big fan of the 49ers, Chuck E. Cheese, and iPads since arriving in the Bay Area last fall. Now, he looks forward to seeing his sister, two brothers and dad when he returns home in late June. Though he will wear lower-leg braces for most activities, including walking, for at least a few years, Hadi will be able to attend school for the first time while planning his dream "to be a surgeon, just like Dr. Rinsky."
Previously: How orthopedic surgery straightened out one man's life, Custom-made exoskeleton helps young girl with muscle disease use her arms and Strong-arm tactic: Saving toddler's limb from amputation
Photo of Hadi with his mother, Shireen, and his physical therapist, Richard Gee, courtesy of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.