Pooja is 14 years old, and lives in Jodhpur, in north-west India. She is part of Sambhali Trust, a local grassroots NGO, working to empower local women and girls. Pooja suffered some neurological damage, most probably at birth, which has resulted in the right side of her body developing more slowly than her left. As a result Pooja's right leg is just under 2cm shorter than her left, causing not only a noticeable limp but chronic back, knee and ankle pain.
The negative effects of Pooja's disability are not just physical. She is from a small village outside Jodhpur, and the fourth child of a large family. Due to the stigma attached to her disability, Pooja was often neglected and ignored as a young child. She was given food only when everybody else had finished eating, made to wear clothes that were barely fit for purpose and didn't even have a name - her family simply referred to her as 'the fourth one'.
The operation will involve breaking the fibula and tibia (lower leg bones) in Pooja's right leg, and then inserting screws into both. These screws will then be twisted at regular intervals to push the bones further apart, encouraging the creation of new bone matter to fill the gap, and lengthening the leg. Daily care will be managed volunteers at Sambhali Trust, with regular visits to the chiropractor, to monitor her recovery and train and strengthen the muscles in her right leg.
As Pooja grows, the imbalance between her two legs is becoming more severe and recent x-rays have also shown that the musculature of Pooja's right leg is significantly underdeveloped when compared to her left, leading to ever increasing pain in her joints. The results of this procedure will be permanent, and will allow Pooja to walk normally, and pain-free for the first time. It will also remove the stigma of disability that she has had to live with for her entire life.
Sambhali Trust website
Details of project on Sambhali website
Sambhali Trust Annual Report 2014-15