A hope-filled future restored – Ali’s story
Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Ali, 24, from Palestine is a shining example of how life-changing surgery restored a future filled with hope and promise.
Ali was 14 when he first started developing signs of a condition called familial hypophosphatemic rickets, a hereditary disorder related to low levels of phosphate in the blood. His younger brother, Motaz also suffered from the same condition, but for Motaz, it presented at an earlier age than it did for Ali.
For both boys, the condition became progressively worse. In Ali’s case, his lower legs began to position at an outward angle, with his knees together and his feet eventually a meter apart. With each passing day, Ali’s mobility was dramatically compromised.
“Walking, running and even kneeling for prayer or to enjoy a meal was a huge struggle. Soon I couldn’t even board the bus to school – and all my dreams and hopes came crashing all around me,” says Ali.
A glimmer of hope surfaced when Motaz had surgery to help straighten his legs in Jerusalem.
“I was so excited for him, and for what it could also mean for me, but sadly the operation just made his legs worse,” recalls Ali.
“We both felt so hopeless and afraid of what the future was to hold for us.”
Motaz was eventually referred to Children First Foundation by the Palestinian Community in Melbourne. He was successfully operated on by leading orthopaedic surgeon, Associate Professor Leo Donnan, at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne in 2013. Two years later, Ali followed suit.
Ali’s surgery took five hours, during which frames were attached to his thigh bones near his knees and the bone divided.
“Following surgery, the deformity in Ali’s legs was corrected over several weeks using a computer program. During this time, bone was stimulated to form and realign his severely bent limbs,” explains Associate Professor Donnan.
After the operation, Ali spent almost a year at The Retreat undergoing intensive rehabilitation. First, he had to learn to walk in the frames. Once the bone was solid enough, the frames were removed, and his recovery continued with extensive physiotherapy sessions, swimming, walking and weights, to help build flexibility in his knees and ankles.
When Ali returned home a year later, he was able to walk, run, swim, kneel, and even play the game of soccer that he was so desperate to get back to! Most importantly, Ali was able to board that bus and complete his education.
“Without surgery and rehabilitation, life would have been extremely difficult for me in Palestine. I wouldn’t have been able to attend University or get a job to support my family. I can’t thank the Foundation, the volunteers, the donors and of course, Professor Donnan and the other medical staff enough.”
Ali graduated from The Arab American University in Palestine with a Bachelor Science in Nursing in July 2020. He says he hopes to continue with further studies, and eventually secure a position that will allow him to improve and shape the future of the healthcare system in Palestine.
Ali’s brother, Motaz, is also doing well, and has completed Year 12.