The 'Folded Man' Finally Stands Up Straight After 28 Years!

The ‘Folded Man’ Finally Stands Up Straight After 28 Years!

In the southern reaches of China, a man’s life has been anything but ordinary. Diagnosed at the age of 18 with a severe case of ‘ankylosing spondylitis,’  Li Hua found himself increasingly immobilized. This condition typically affects young males and causes the vertebrae and sacroiliac joints (joints that link the pelvis and lower spine) to fuse. The disorder makes movement nearly impossible. 

For nearly 28 brutal years, Li spent his folded life with his breastbone touching his pubic bone, and face resting on his thigh. The physical and emotional toll on both Li and his family was huge. However, his story turned from heartbreaking to hopeful with the help of surgery. Let’s dive into the details of Li Hua’s unusual condition and recovery. 

Decades of Life in a Folded Position

From the age of 18, Li lived in a world that seemed to compress more each day. His body began severely folding as a result of the physical expression of ankylosing spondylitis’s cruel progression. Despite the severity of his condition, Li faced a lot of financial burden. The struggle with finances made his dream to seek effective treatment a distant dream. However, things changed for good in 2020. 

“My whole life has been a waiting game—a waiting for some kind of miracle.”

Li Hua once shared in an interview
The 'Folded Man' Finally Stands Up Straight After 28 Years
Image source: South China Morning Post

The Turning Point: A Medical Gamble

The long-awaited dream of unfolding his body soon started becoming a reality with Dr. Tao Huiren of Shenzhen University General Hospital. He crafted a brave surgical plan for Li. 

The plan carried several challenging possibilities. Dr. Tao likened the complexity of the medical procedure to “scaling Mount Everest,” with risks that included paraplegia or even death. The gravity of this decision weighed heavily on Li and his mother. However, Li agreed to give a chance to Dr. Tao’s surgical plan.

“What if I die, but he’s still sick? Who will take care of my son?”

Li Hua’s Mother
The 'Folded Man', Finally Stands Up Straight After 28 Years
Image source: LADBible / Daily Mail (Image on the left when Li Hua was in his teenage years / Image on the right is Li Hua post-surgery)

The Surgical Marathon: Breaking and Rebuilding

The path to recovery included a series of four complicated surgeries. The first, a femoral osteotomy, expanded the space between Li’s face and thigh. It led to further corrections. The first was then followed by a second, a cervical osteotomy. It allowed Li to lift his head for the first time in decades. 

The third surgery, a lumbar spine osteotomy, enabled him to sit upright. Each procedure brought its own set of challenges, particularly with anesthesia. However, they were critical for the success of surgeries.

 “I hope I can recover soon so that she can be relieved of this burden.”

Li Hua said looking towards his future. 

Despite all Li has been through, his emotional climax came after the final surgery, a hip joint replacement, which allowed Li to stand straight and walk. 

“Seeing my mother’s face without bending was overwhelming.” 

Li Hua expressed
The 'Folded Man', Finally Stands Up Straight After 28 Years
Image source: South China Morning Post

Recovery and Rehabilitation: A New Beginning

Post-surgery, Li faced a long road of physical therapy to combat the muscle atrophy and relearn basic movements. The support from the medical team and his mother played a huge role during his complete recovery.

“Every small movement felt like a victory.”

 Li Hua recounted


Li Hua’s journey from a ‘folded’ existence to standing tall is not just a personal victory but a testament to medical science’s ability to change lives. The moment he looked up at the sky for the first time in nearly three decades symbolized his newfound freedom and the infinite possibilities ahead. Li’s story resonates deeply with themes of perseverance, the love between a mother and her son, and the remarkable capabilities of modern medicine. 

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