Stories

Conditions we treat: Spina Bifida





Spina Bifida is a congenital disability that occurs when the spinal cord, comprised of nerves and fluid, doesn’t form correctly during gestation and presents outside of a child’s body. It is the second most treated condition at CURE Uganda.  

There are a few different forms of spina bifida, ranging from mild to severe. When forming in the mother’s womb, fetuses have what’s called a “neural tube” that eventually forms into the brain and spine. However, for babies with spina bifida, this neural tube never fully develops and results in a gap in the spinal column (spina bifida 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. Part of the spinal cord also pushes through this gap and occupies the sack in severe cases.

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 severe spina bifida cases can cause issues like lack of bladder control and leg paralysis, but what makes spina bifida life-threatening are the spinal nerves and tissues exposed, leaving the baby vulnerable to infections.   

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. Unfortunately, doctors cannot reverse any damage to the spinal cord which may have already happened. Still, this surgery helps prevent 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 healthy lives. Patients like Esther, who was brought to CURE Uganda when she was just an infant is now a teenager, in school, and dreaming of being an accountant one day to help people in need with their finances!

Because of the support from our donors, Esther’s treatment was completely sponsored. Without treatment, Esther would have been unlikely to make it to her teen years let alone have dreams for the future. In lower-income countries like Uganda, where poverty prevails, it allows more children a chance at living disability-free lives. 

One of the beautiful things about CURE is that it allows everyone to participate in the life-transforming surgeries at CURE hospitals worldwide. To participate in life-changing and life-saving work, you don’t need to understand words like bilateral, ventricle, genu valgum, congenital, or cerebral-spinal fluid. But with this said, having an understanding of the conditions CURE treats does allow a deeper appreciation of just how important your donation is to our ministry.

To support a child’s surgery, click here.