As the video pans out, pain sears through my body as I watch him “walk.” Feeling somewhat queasy, I cannot take my eyes off from this young man living in Kolhapur, India as he carefully crosses the colorful and well-kept room with his thin CMT legs and horribly twisted feet. Each cautiously placed step reveals the soles of his feet, which are perfectly perpendicular to the opposing ankle. I’ve seen bad cases of supination, but it looked like his feet just decided to fold to the inside, forcing the tips of his tibia and fibula to bear his weight.
His hands are also terribly affected by CMT. A close-up reveals clawed fingers, stubbornly bent, refusing to move. Managing a few callisthenic-like arm movements, it becomes apparent that CMT has also ravaged his hands, leaving them weak and atrophied.
His email, video attached, found itself in my inbox.
Jan 30, 2013
As you know I have CMT & I am from India. There is no awareness about CMT compared to your country. So please give me information on what type of care should I take. What type of exercise should I do? What type of shoes should I wear?
Please help me. I am forwarding my video clip.
Anand Pramod Patki
I immediately emailed him. From that day, 4 years ago, Anand has become a close friend….my brother.
His story goes something like this: Anand started showing signs of CMT at 6 years old. His toes started to claw and the muscles in his lower legs were weakening.
Anand – Age 6
By the age of 10, he was unable to stand upright in one position for more than 2-3 seconds without losing his balance.
Anand – Age 10
He was 15 years old at his sister’s engagement party, but he could no longer walk long distances as his feet started to curve inward.
Anand – Age 15
Despite the challenges of living in India with a physical disability, Anand finished high school and even received the 2nd highest grade on his high school board exams. A writing aid was offered, but Anand refused, insisting on independently write the answers to a grueling 3-hour long exam.
Officially diagnosed with CMT at age 20, his neurologist outright told him: “There is no treatment and you will become weaker and weaker.” With limited resources, information or support, Anand found the strength to mentally accept the diagnosis, and to retain a positive outlook on life. He had a supportive family, parents, intelligence and deep inner fortitude.
When he reached out to the CMTA, he had been working as a computer operator at the Postal Department in India. There is no Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in India. To keep his job, and to make up for his slower than average data entry work, he had to work continuously for more than 8 hours at a time, without the luxury of a single break. Even the bathroom was off limits. Even if he had had the time, handicapped bathrooms are few and far between in India.
Yet, Anand emphasized, “I am enjoying my job. At this stage, I cannot walk without support on hard surfaces. I face a lot of problems performing my day- to- day tasks, like buttoning my shirts, wearing my shoes, counting cash, handling vouchers, inserting paper in the printer, etc. I’ve also had a chronic ankle injury for the past five years. But, I am happy in my life. I have no complaints with my God.”
I communicate frequently through email and Skype with my Indian friend. Each correspondence brings us closer. I marvel at his optimism, boyish grin and resolve to live the best life possible despite all the obstacles he faces every single day.
But what could I do? Except for Anand and his family, I know no one in India. His town of Kolhapur is a mere 8,500 miles away from where I live in California.
Yet, as we wrote back and forth, the possibility of foot surgery was discussed. Even if we did stumble upon an orthopedic doctor, would he be able to correct Ananda’s feet?
After months and months of searching, I turned to Dr. Glenn Pfeffer, who put me in contact with Dr. Rana, a well-known orthopedic surgeon who practices in New Dehli and was willing to take on this complex procedure.
With the precious support of my colleagues on the CMTA’s Board of Directors, Anand was given the opportunity to have a potentially life-changing surgery.
2 years after meeting Anand, surgery was scheduled for April 18, 2015. Dr. Rana would perform a triple arthrodesis (fusing the three joints in the hindfoot) with Achilles tendon lengthening on each foot, one week apart. To get to New Delhi, Anand took his first-ever plane ride with his Baba (father), after which he enthusiastically wrote: “I was feeling like a free bird who flies in the sky!”
The surgeries went well, but there have been some complications due to low bone density, pressure sores, and screws not wanting to stay in place. Anand has waited patiently while healing and has had to undergo several smaller procedures to remove those uncollaborative pieces of metal.
With the help of thick plastic leg boots, today, Anand is able to walk on the soles of his feet.
When he went back to work, his colleagues were thrilled to see him and stood, applauding his return. In 2-3 months, the braces will be exchanged for lighter, more user-friendly AFOs. The day that he is able to put on a pair of shoes, will be the day that we celebrate and consider the surgery to have been 100% successful.
Skype has been a wonderful tool. Virtually I have visited Anand in India and he has spent time with us in California. Yet, virtual reality will never be on par with being able to physically hug my brother, sit next to him, enjoy a meal, laugh, cry, talk. My dream is to visit him in Kolhapur. And I will and look forward to the day we can walk, arm in arm, down the street with my brother.
Anand’s Words of Wisdom
As you can see, I am getting weaker and weaker physically, but becoming stronger and stronger mentally. I cannot tell you that you will be victorious over your CMT, but you can manage the degeneration process of CMT by following these steps:
- Always think positively. To train your mind to think always positively is essential. I believe in God and I also believe there are positive waves in nature. So, you can change your life with positive thinking.
- Remain hopeful. Don’t feel sad in your life. Our scientists and researchers are doing a lot of experiments on CMT. I know in next five years, we will get very close to making a world without CMT.
- Don’t think of yourself as disabled. You are ‘specially- abled ‘. I know we cannot do much about our physical capacity, but you have a normal brain. Use it with your full capacity. Be honest and work hard in your job or field and try to become specially- abled .
- Thank God. Don’t curse your God because God has gifted you with a super brain. Use it as your sixth sense. God has gifted you with normal eyes. Use them to see beautiful and good things in your life. Be satisfied and happy with what you have. Do not feel badly about what you don’t have.
- The most important thing is to maintain your physical capacity and try to improve it with proper exercise. For me, Yoga is the best option to improve my muscle flexibility.
Isn’t he somethng?