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Nahid Zafari, 24, is the first in Lethbridge to undergo an intricate orthopaedic surgery that aims to repair the bow legs that have affected her wellbeing for half of her life. Due to a childhood crippled by malnutrition and a lack of access to adequate medical care, the Iranian immigrant feels she has only ever been treated as a “disabled girl”, which has taken its toll on her emotional wellness, as well as her bone health.
She explained, ‘I just gave up on my knees a few months ago. I was so sad when I was going to university. All the girls, all the boys were looking at my knee and (pretending) it’s normal, but I could see their eyes. And then I met Dr. Kollias and she gave me a new hope.’ Nahid has had knee pain since she was 12 years old, but her doctor in her native Tehran told her it was just growing pains and she would be fine. Overtime, the pain worsened and her knees began to point outward due to soft bones brought on by malnutrition and a severe lack of Vitamin D.
However, Dr Carrie Kollias, an orthopaedic surgeon at Chinook Regional Hospital, is one in a small group of Alberta doctors who has been trained to use and aluminum and stainless steel device that could have Nahid fully recovered by September. The Taylor Spatial Frame system contains six external struts that can be adjusted to lengthen and align limb bones as they grow and heal – every day for at least three months.
Dr Kollias performed the surgery on Zafari’s right leg in February. ‘She’s sort of the most meaningful patient for me because she was the first,’ Kollias commented. ‘It’s a very powerful correction, so when they have a crooked leg and you make it straight or when they have a short leg and you make it the same length as the other side, that’s difficult stuff to do. Mentally, you think “Wow, that sounds really tough.” It’s still tough but it’s not impossible. So when it works out, it’s meaningful and you remember those patients.’
The magnitude of the surgery’s meaning is not lost on Nahid, who commented, ‘It will change my life. Before, I couldn’t walk normally, before I couldn’t go out with my friends, I couldn’t wear what I want. But now it totally changed my clothing; it changed my life. I can go out with my friends, I can wear what I want, even I can eat what I want.’ She added, ‘It was hard, but I did it. I said no matter what happens, I’m going to do this.’