Young mother undergoes first of its kind lifesaving brain surgery in Guyana

- expected to lead a normal life  

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By Isanella Patoir

Twenty-four-year-old Analisa Latchman of Lima Sands, Essequibo is the first patient in Guyana to undergo a skull replacement surgery after she was diagnosed with a rare bone disorder.

After months of being in excruciating pain, Analisa can now lead a normal life.

When the young mother of one was 10-years-old, her left side face developed a deformity, which grew bigger over the years, however, six months ago she began experiencing severe headaches which subsequently led to the loss of consciousness.

After numerous CT scans and MRIs, doctors could not diagnose what was wrong with her and only treated the pain. But no amount of pain medications worked.

In early July 2020, her family took her to see neurosurgeon, Dr Amarnauth Dukhi who made the historical diagnosis.

Analisa was diagnosed with craniofacial fibrous dysplasia, a bone disease of the face and skull that replaces normal bone with fibrous-type tissue.

Analisa prior to doing the surgery

At a press conference on Wednesday at the St Joseph Mercy Hospital, Dr Dukhi explained the rare disease.

“We were able to detect that this is a patient that had one of the rare cranial facial bone disorder. This occurs in 1 to 5 in every 15,000 to 30,000 babies that are born. Patients usually start to have symptoms from two to three-year-old and show signs of indentation about 12-year-old and as the patient grows the symptoms become more pronounced,” Dr Dukhi said.

A surgery to replace 40% of the young woman’s skull was successfully done at the St Joseph Mercy Hospital in partnership with NeuroSpine Inc on Saturday last.

Neurosurgeon, Dr Amarnauth Dukhi

Dr Dukhi explained that this was a first world surgical procedure that was done in a third world developing country. It was also the first time that someone with this disease was diagnosed and treated in Guyana.

The skull implant was procured from KLS Martin, a medical equipment supplier company in the United States. A 3D reconstruction of the patient’s skull was sent to the company in order to create the implant to suit her facial structure to allow her to look normal again.

“I did a CT scan and reconstructed it to 3D and realized that 40% of Analisa’s skull was sick, that structure of her actual skull vault had become fibrous and it was pulling her facial structure into the brain hence why she had an asymmetrical facial look,” Dr Duhki said.

Dr Dukhi and team during the surgery

Without the surgery, Analisa was likely to have severe brain damage, suffer seizures and be in constant pain. Fortunately, the six hour long surgery was a huge success. Four days after the procedure, Analisa is already walking and talking and is no longer having headaches.

Dr Dukhi further highlighted that there was also no complications during the intricate surgery.

Nevertheless, it was challenging since part of the affected skull involved three bones – the frontal bone, parietal bone and the temporal bone on the left side of her head.

Analisa’s condition was also squeezing her frontal lobe which is responsible for behavioural patterns such as motor function, problem solving, memory and language.

With every surgery there is some amount of risks and Dr Duhki explained what could have happened if something went wrong during surgery.

“It was tedious for me because they have two very important nerves that come out in the area where I worked which are the facial nerve and the upper branch of the trigeminal nerve but we were able to dissect that carefully away and protect it so there were no injuries to her nerves.

“In Analisa’s case we had to be very careful with nerve damage especially the facial nerves which would have paralyzed that side of her face,” Dr Dukhi said.

Analisa, who is the mother of a five-year-old girl will be discharged from the hospital in the next few days. She says she is thankful to everyone who supported her during this time and who donated to make the surgery possible.

The cost of the skull implant was US$11,000 and was made possible after numerous donations to her GoFundMe page. The hospital charges are being taken care of by prominent Guyanese businessman, Chris Fernandes and the surgical process was done free of cost by Dr Dukhi.

Analisa, during a telephone interview, says she cannot wait to return to work and be able to provide for her daughter.

“I am doing good today, no headache.

“Once I am fully recovered I will start working again because I am a single parent and I have my daughter to take care of,” Analisa said.

Analisa and her 5-year-old daughter

It is expected that Analisa will lead a long and normal life. Dr Dukhi was commended for taking healthcare to another level in Guyana over the last few years.

The News Room understands that on Dr Dukhi’s agenda is to perform a wide-awake brain surgery, another first for Guyana.

“Because we have these resources in Guyana it is important that we use them and we use our human resources capacity as we continue to develop health care both in the private and public health sectors.”

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