Fatima Bennouna

Mother/Grandmother Walks Pain- and Limp-Free for First Time in 45 Years

"Miracles do happen and this one happened at Capital Health.”

Fatima Bennouna Full PhotoIn 1966, a 16-year-old girl in Casablanca, Morocco was hit by a bus, leaving her with a broken tibia and fibula (the two bones in the lower leg). It would be 45 years later before that the same girl, Fatima Bennouna, would be able to walk without a limp and without pain thanks to the cooperative efforts of Capital Health, a group of private physicians led by Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Hari Bezwada, and a company that specializes in joint replacement technology.

“I just saw my mother walk for the first time without a limp,” said Houda Abdallah, Fatima’s daughter who resides in Moorestown, NJ. “The first doctor that treated her when she was injured never set her broken bones correctly. Because of that, the bones fused unevenly and left her with one leg shorter than the other, which, after walking on uneven legs for many years, led to extremely painful arthritis in her left knee.”

For decades, Fatima was in need of a procedure to fix her leg as well as a knee replacement. Houda and the rest of Fatima’s family tried to convince her to get the medical care she needed but, like most parents, Fatima was unwilling to burden her family with her troubles. Fatima also worried that the deformity that resulted from her old injury would not make her a good candidate for the procedure.

Finally, with Fatima’s family growing and the pain in her leg getting worse each year, she conceded to get the help she needed. But in Morocco, the medical resources are not readily available as they are in the United States and knee replacement surgery is rarely performed.

Without many options in Morocco, Houda began looking for possibilities here in the United States. She met and spoke to many physicians, and according to Houda, they told her that joint replacement will help with the chronic pain but that her mother will continue to need special shoes to compensate for the uneven leg height. As luck would have it, one of Houda’s neighbors is Dr. Hari Bezwada, a board certified orthopaedic surgeon who, among other conditions, specializes in knee replacements and fracture care of the lower extremity (legs and feet).

“Houda is my neighbor and her children are classmates with mine,” said Dr. Bezwada. “When she approached me about her mother’s medical condition, I said I would help but I needed to find a hospital that would be willing to provide me with the resources to do the surgery.”

A complex procedure such as the one that Fatima needed is costly without insurance or financial assistance from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Fatima wasn’t able to afford the costs. One hospital, Capital Health, was able to provide an answer.

“I met with [Al Maghazehe, president and CEO of Capital Health] about donating hospital resources to provide medical treatment, and through an anonymous donor, they were able to oblige,” said Dr. Bezwada. As promised, Dr. Bezwada performed the surgery at no cost, but he also arranged for implants to be donated from Zimmer, Inc. (a company that designs, develops, manufactures and markets orthopaedic reconstructive surgery products) through Americares (a nonprofit organization which provides response to medical needs). He also asked a colleague, Cardiologist Dr. Keith Wolfson, to evaluate Fatima before her surgery, and he too agreed to see her at no cost to Fatima.

“When we met Al, I could tell that he has such a great sense of hospitality, and now that my mother and I have experienced Capital Health firsthand, I can tell you that it permeates throughout the entire organization,” said Houda. “Everyone we met, from Darryl the security guard who greeted us at the front desk to all the amazing nurses led by Cheryl Wiseman, the therapists, doctors and professionals who helped my mother, you can tell that everyone who works here is happy to do what they do. They’re true cheerleaders.”

And because Fatima was from another country, the language barrier was a concern for Fatima and her family. “My mother speaks English but is more comfortable speaking French,” Houda said. “When our nurses heard that, they immediately provided nurses who could speak and understand fluent French. That’s what I call ‘world class’ care!”

Fatima was 16 when the injury first occurred. She is now in her sixties and walking with a repaired leg, a new knee, and what her daughter calls “a new life” that was once paralyzed by chronic pain.

“Words are difficult to find to express my gratitude and appreciation of the gift provided by Dr. Bezwada, Dr. Wolfson, the entire team of professionals at Capital Health, and the company who donated the knee, who made this miracle possible. They are all God sent. As I continue to relearn to walk, I will forever be grateful to the expert hands who changed my life. I eagerly look forward to my new life without a limp, pain, or swollen aching legs, or the pitiful stare of others, or the purse snatchers for whom I had become an easy target. Instead, I envision myself playing for countless hours with my grandchildren without getting tired so quickly, gardening pain free, and being able to contribute more effectively to the volunteer organizations I belong to. I so look forward to the future.”

“I am forever humbled and grateful by the generosity of all the doctors, nurses, and staff involved with Capital Health, especially with Dr. Bezwada’s unconditional and caring support. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your unconditional and caring support."

“Miracles do happen and this one happened at Capital Health.”

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