Stories

Conditions we treat: Spina Bifida





This blog is part of an ongoing series looking to explain the common conditions CURE treats in ways that all of us non-medical folk can understand.  

Spina Bifida is the second most treated condition at CURE Uganda. It’s a scary condition, but thankfully, it is very treatable.

There are a few different kinds of spina bifida, but they are all conditions that babies are born with. When we’re forming in our mother’s womb, we have this thing called a “neural tube” that eventually forms into our brain and spine. For babies with spina bifida, this neural tube never fully develops and results in a gap in the spinal column (spina bifida literally means split spine). The spine’s protective membranes and fluids can then push their way out through this gap and form what’s essentially a sack on the baby’s back. In severe cases, part of the spinal cord also pushes through this gap and occupies the sack.

A spina bifida patient before surgery.

There’s a large spectrum of spina bifida cases from small, almost unnoticeable sacks, to large, much more visually concerning, ones. The more serious spina bifida conditions can cause issues like lack of bladder control and leg paralysis, but what makes spina bifida an emergency issue is that having spinal nerves and tissues exposed leaves the baby extremely vulnerable to infections like meningitis, which will kill the baby if untreated.   

CURE Uganda surgeons completing a spina bifida operation.

Thankfully, CURE Uganda is highly specialized in treating spina bifida. CURE Uganda surgeons remove the sack and in some cases, reinsert the spinal cord back into the spine. Then, they cover the gap in the spine with the membranes which should have been there in the first place. Doctors cannot reverse any damage to the spinal cord which may have already happened, but this surgery helps prevent any further damage and removes the immediate danger to the baby’s life.

Spina bifida is a scary condition, but it is a treatable condition. Most spina bifida patients go on to live full and good lives. Patients like Esther, who was brought to CURE Uganda when she was just an infant. She is now a teenager, in school, and dreaming of being an accountant one day!

Without treatment, Esther would have been unlikely to make it to her teen years let alone have dreams for the future. CURE Uganda is able to treat spina bifida patients like Esther but is completely dependent on your support to do so. Let’s heal kids together! https://cure.org/hero/

One of the beautiful things about CURE is that it allows everyone to participate in the life-transforming surgeries that are provided daily at the CURE hospitals all around the world. You don’t need to be able to understand words like bilateral, ventricle, genu valgum, congenital, or cerebral-spinal fluid to take part in the life-changing and life-saving work that is done. But with this said, having an understanding of the conditions CURE treats does allow a deeper appreciation of just how important the work your donation is enabling the CURE staff to do! Thank you.

About The Author

Joel Witwer

My title says that I'm the Lead Storyteller, previously Storyteller for Niger, previously CUREkids Coordinator in Zambia. All this really means is I hang out with kids and sometimes take photos. I love these kids; thus, I love my job. My goal is to translate this love into pixels and words so that you can fall in love as well!

Read more about Joel