Taipei, Dec. 23 (CNA) Fifteen-year-old Loke Swe from Myanmar, who was born with the fingers on both hands fused into a fist, underwent successful surgery at Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital in Taipei, allowing him to realize his dream of being able to write normally one day, the hospital said Monday.
For most people, writing or picking up objects is second nature, but for Loke Swe with congenital syndactyly, even feeding himself or writing is extremely difficult.
Owing to the poor health care system in Myanmar, no hospitals or medical institutions in the country were able to give Loke Swe the surgery he needed.
In addition, amid clashes between ethnic rebels and the security forces in the Kokang region in 2017, Loke Swe and other displaced children from poor families were sent to a Buddhist nunnery in Yangon.
In April, Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂), superintendent of Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital who specializes in orthopedic surgery, led a medical mission to Yangon, where he met Swe and was moved by his determination to overcome his physical disability.
After returning to Taiwan, Hou decided to assemble a cross- departmental medical team to pay for the treatment the teenager needed in Taiwan and allow him to fulfill his dream of writing and drawing like others.
Lin Yu-hsien (林育賢), a plastic surgeon at the hospital who performed the surgery, said that the main difference between humans and most other mammals is that people can use two or three fingers to grasp and hold objects.
Generally, a baby's fingers separate at about six weeks of pregnancy, Lin noted.
The incidence of congenital syndactyly of five digits is about 1-in-2,000 to 1-in-3,000, Lin said, adding that Loke Swe's condition is very rare.
Describing the surgery on Loke Swe as difficult, Lin said such a procedure is normally performed on children aged two or younger with better finger joint development than older children.
Taking Loke Swe as an example, Lin said the teenager's thumb is about the same length as his fingers and the finger joints almost fused together, making the operation challenging.
The medical team first separated Loke Swe's thumb from his palm, then detached his middle finger from his ring finger and eventually divided his fingers into three sections, enabling him to hold objects.
Loke Swe told CNA that he was delighted to receive the surgery in Taiwan because he would no longer be laughed at due to his strange motions and difficulty writing and holding objects.
Hung Tzu-jen (洪子仁), vice superintendent of the hospital, said the surgery not only helped Loke Swe but will also raise the international visibility and image of Taiwan's medical and health care sector.
Noting that Taiwan's health care system is often measured against the world's best, Hung said he hopes the successful surgery will encourage more people of means in Myanmar to seek medial treatment in Taiwan.