Tibetans with bone disorder get free help in Beijing

Medical personnel from the China Overseas-Educated Scholars Development Foundation accompany Tibetan patients with Kashin-Beck disease as they go to a hospital in Beijing. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Twelve Tibetan patients with Kashin-Beck disease, or KBD, a disorder of the bones and joints, have arrived Beijing for free medical treatment at Peking University People's Hospital.

Traveling more than 2,800 kilometers from Lhorong county in the Tibet autonomous region, the patients are the first with the disorder to receive treatment this year. They are supported by the China Overseas-Educated Scholars Development Foundation and the Beijing Joint Care Foundation, which have been working years to relieve the illness in Tibet.

A Tibetan patient with Kashin-Beck disease receives surgery in Beijing. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

He Fang, director of the foundation's project management department, said on Tuesday that five of the 12 patients underwent surgery on Monday, and the rest are expected to follow within the next few weeks.

As the situation of some patients is critical, Peking University People's Hospital is scheduled to have a teletherapy consultation on complex cases with experts on Wednesday, He said — including doctors from the New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery, the top hospital for orthopedics in the United States.

Medics from Beijing and officials of the Tibet autonomous region meeet in Beijing to discuss the treatment of Tibetan patients suffering from Kashin-Beck disease. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Located in northeastern Tibet, Lhorong has distinct rainy and dry seasons every year, along with long, cold winters. It has a high incidence of KBD.

Tibet's Chamdo city has more than 6,000 people with KBD, including at least 5,000 patients distributed in Lhorong county.

Starting from 2019, 244 patients from Lhorong county have received free surgery for hip and knee replacement from the welfare project. In the past, all medical bills were paid by the charities. The project also provides training courses for local doctors to become more talented in dealing with the disease.

Lin Jianhao, director of the bone and joint department of Peking University People's Hospital, a major contributor to the project, has been making field trips to rural areas of Lhorong to do surveys and screen for the disease, together with his medical team.

Lin Jianhao (second from left), director of the bone and joint department of Peking University People's Hospital, checks the X-ray of a patient. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"Bone experts from some key hospitals in Beijing participated in health checkups, diagnosis, preoperative evaluation and operation schemes for 12 patients," Lin said. Their ages are mostly between 30 and 60. The eldest is 71.

The 12 are part of the sixth group of such patients from Tibet to receive medical treatment in Beijing, said Lin, who also serves as the head of China's national treatment team for KBD and skeletal fluorosis.

Medical professionals check a Tibetan patient with Kashin-Beck disease. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"Their condition is more critical, which is why they have been taken to Beijing for treatment," he added.

Tashi Lhagyal, one of the 12 KBD patients, said he has been suffering from the disease for 10 years and felt lucky and grateful to receive medical help from the charity and medical professionals in Beijing.

Lin Jianhao and other doctors discuss the X-ray of a patient's leg. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"It's my first time in Beijing," Tashi Lhagyal said. "These people from the hospital, the foundation, they are all very kind to us patients. I will never forget that our country gave me the opportunity to let me stand up again, and I want to thank all those who have supported me along my tough journey."

The project aims to help patients in and around Lhasa, the regional capital. Cooperation agreements have been signed between the China Overseas-Educated Scholars Development Foundation, the Lhasa Municipal Health Commission and the Beijing Aid-Tibet Headquarters —a new step to expand the work in the Lhasa area in the near future.