‘Folded boy’ starts surgery in hopes of standing straight for first time in 10 years

  • China
  • Wednesday, 07 Jun 2023

Jiang Yanchen suffers from a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine. - DOUYIN

BEIJING (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): A 19-year-old teenager in China with an autoimmune disease that left him bending forward horizontally has begun a series of operations in Beijing in hopes of being able to stand up straight again.

Jiang Yanchen, who is a university student, suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, which is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine. Over time, this can cause some of the bones to fuse, resulting in a hunched posture.

The last time Jiang stood up straight was 10 years ago, said media reports. As the disease worsened over the years, his neck bent backwards till his head touched his back.

Jiang, who is 1m tall, has to use a wheelchair. Since primary school, he has had to kneel on a chair. He was quoted in the media as saying that it was not easy for him to read and write.

“At first my knees hurt a bit, but they got numb after all these years,” he told state newspaper People’s Daily in a video interview.

Despite the pain he endures daily, he is determined to make the most of his life.

“I am trying my best to learn more now, to strive to have skills in different areas so if I’m cured one day, I can be a capable person.”

In May, he left his hometown in Shandong province for Beijing to begin a series of complex medical procedures that will take about three months to complete.

His mother told him before he left: “When you return, you won’t need a wheelchair anymore. You can just stroll back.”

After the first procedure, his neck was restored to its normal position.

He has to undergo at least four more operations to bring his back to an upright position.

A 2020 study found that ankylosing spondylitis has a prevalence rate of 0.29 per cent in China, which means that about three in every 1,000 people suffer from it.

Jiang is not the first “folded” man in China who has gone viral online for documenting his journey to standing up straight.

Li Hua, 49, who is from Hunan province, suffered a severe case of ankylosing spondylitis that led to him being completely bent over, with his chin touching his thighs.

After four operations between June and December 2019 in Shenzhen, he stood up straight for the first time in almost 30 years in 2020.

Seeing Li as a beacon of hope for Jiang, netizens have been sending the latter messages of support.

“What a strength of character! I pray you can stand up straight one day and enjoy everything you’ve missed out on so far,” said one netizen.

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China , folded , boy , surgery


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