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Man Folded In Half Leaves Hospital Standing Straight After 28 Years

Man Folded In Half Leaves Hospital Standing Straight After 28 Years

A man with arthritis so severe he became known as 'folding man' has walked out of hospital standing up straight for the first time in 28 years.

Li Hua, 46, left Shenzhen University General Hospital in China's southern province of Guangdong on 13 June following a full year of treatment and four life-changing surgeries, the city's health commission reported.

The surgery means Mr Li can finally look after his ageing mother Tang Dongchen, 71, who became his full time carer in her 40s.

Mr Li prior to the surgeries. Credit: Asia Wire
Mr Li prior to the surgeries. Credit: Asia Wire
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Mr Li, from Yongzhou in Central China's Hunan Province, is known as China's 'Folding Man' or 'Penknife Man' because of a condition called ankylosing spondylitis, a severe form of inflammatory arthritis which began affecting his spine and large joints at the age of 18.

Mr Li eventually became so hunchbacked that his face was pressed against his legs, leaving him a 5cm (2 inch) gap between his chin and thighs.

Mr Li's X-ray. Credit: Asia Wire
Mr Li's X-ray. Credit: Asia Wire

His doctor Professor Tao Huiren told local documentary makers Ergeng TV: "Li Hua had what is known as ankylosing spondylitis. The serious spinal deformity can put pressure on his heart and lungs, leading to a loss of organ function and eventually death.

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"From the perspective of medical skills required, it was like climbing Mount Everest."

The professor and his team at the teaching hospital spent two weeks creating a treatment plan and three months preparing Mr Li for surgery.

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Man Folded In Half Stands Straight After 28 Years
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Man Folded In Half Stands Straight After 28 Years

Mr Li as a young man. Credit: Asia Wire
Mr Li as a young man. Credit: Asia Wire

The four high-risk surgeries took place between 15 August and 31 October last year, which left Mr Li in danger of becoming a paraplegic or even dying on the operating table.

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The operations involved breaking Mr Li's bones in sections and straightening them out again, and the longest took 10 hours and 25 minutes.

His mother Ms Tang said: "Of course, I was concerned, but there was no other way after more than 20 years of hardship. I started looking for ways to treat him when I was in my 40s. I'm now 71.

"In the past, I'd hear people say this or that place could cure him, so I'd bring him there. I spent all my money, but nothing worked. If he isn't cured and I die, who will take care of him?"

Mr Li with his mother. Credit: Asia Wire
Mr Li with his mother. Credit: Asia Wire
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Mr Li said: "I'm just very happy to be able to sleep lying flat again. I hadn't slept on my back for more than 20 years.

"The first time I saw my mother after surgery, I suddenly realised how much she had aged while taking care of me all these years.

"To me, Professor Tao is my saviour. There would've been no cure for me without him."

Featured Image Credit: Asia Wire

Topics: News, Weird, China

Rebecca Shepherd

I'm Becky - a journalist at LADbible. I graduated with a First Class BA in Journalism before going on to cover criminal court cases, medical tribunals and breaking news for the national media - which inevitably and eventually became as glum as it sounds. Can often be found rocking a bag for life - which I made a 'thing' way before Rihanna. You can contact me at [email protected]