Rejean Ligue, a 21-year-old scoliosis patient, has returned to Manila after a successful two-stage surgery in Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital in Taiwan. The surgery corrected her back, which arched at 140 degrees and was already compressing her heart and lungs.
Through the help of Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines, scoliosis patient Rejean Ligue is finally back home after a successful surgery in Taiwan.
The 21-year-old from Loon, Bohol underwent a two-stage spinal surgery at the Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital on August 29 and September 12 to correct her back.
Arching at 140 degrees and compressing her heart and lungs, the severity of Rejean’s scoliosis posed a challenge for the doctors. But Dr. Tzeng Shiau-Tzu of the hospital’s Orthopedic Department was confident that Rejean’s case can be treated. It only required more analysis to formulate a treatment plan.
One of several medical facilities operated by Tzu Chi Foundation, the Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital has treated more than 30 cases of scoliosis whose curvature is over 100 degrees.
As many as twenty medical personnel from various departments convened to discuss how to tackle Rejean’s scoliosis. The first stage, aimed to reduce the curvature of 140 degrees to below 100 via osteotomy, pushed through on the morning of August 29, eight days since Rejean’s admission. It lasted 20 hours. The second-stage of the surgery was conducted on September 12 and went for 14 hours.
Prior to the operation, surgeons conducted simulations to ensure effective treatment.
To assist in her recovery and reduce inflammation post-surgery, nutritionist Cai Wanrui issued Rejean with two cans of nutritional supplements every day. During her recovery period, Rejean ate vegetarian meals six times a day, drank a lot of water, and took a walk to aid her rehabilitation. More importantly, she learned to put her mind into recovering. A week later, her pleural effusion has all but disappeared and even gained three kilos of weight.
Following the surgery, Rejean had grown additional six inches in height. She remained in the hospital for over a month to recuperate until she came back to the Philippines on October 4.
Rejean’s scoliosis started with a small bump sustained after a mishap while playing in her grade school years.
“I can’t lift heavy things. My time doing the laundry is also limited. I can’t even climb to higher places. One time, I was walking uphill in our place when I grew tired after just a few yards,” narrated Rejean.
She could only rely on her older sister, Russel Jean, who accompanied her to Taiwan. Their family having splintered since childhood, the sisters lived separately before coming together. Making sweet treats is Rejean’s only means of earning for her education back home, selling graham balls called “munchkins” at Php1.00 a piece. Of the 150 pieces Rejean would sell, she would spend Php80 for the ingredients and the rest her income.
When the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Bohol in 2013, Rejean and her grandparents pieced back their ruined life. The disaster claimed over 200 lives and destroyed over 50,000 buildings that include historical sites. Her hometown of Loon is among the hardest-hit municipalities, as well as the priority of Tzu Chi’s relief operations.
Following the disaster, Tzu Chi Philippines initiated a major relief operation, distributing cash assistance, blankets, among others. For its mid-term rehabilitation work, Tzu Chi donated 150 units of prefabricated classrooms to 16 affected schools in seven municipalities.
Tzu Chi took deeper roots in Bohol after opening a local operations office in Tagbilaran City in 2014.
As of 2016, Tzu Chi has already helped over 500 patients from Bohol undergo free surgeries, Rejean among them.
“I’m indebted to Tzu Chi Foundation for being instrumental in my recovery,” says Rejean.
With the success of the surgery in Taiwan, Russel Jane hopes to finally see her sister continue her education. Rejean stopped short of entering college because of her severe scoliosis, if not poverty.
“We want her to continue her studies [into college]. Sometimes, she would get jealous of me because I get to wear pretty clothes. When she gets better, I’ll consider lending her some to wear,” Russel Jane says.