Kaylee Ferguson is a senior at Lee-Davis High School. She’s very energetic and loves playing soccer. She is also a dedicated student, taking advanced classes along with photography and drama. Kaylee just completed a college tour and is now thinking about her college choice as well as scholarship opportunities. She’s hoping to double major in college, with an eye toward becoming a biology teacher and a youth minister.
Kaylee is a very positive young lady who is full of hope for the future. However, life didn’t always seem so promising for her. She was diagnosed with scoliosis as a young child and has experienced much pain and discomfort. A scoliosis screening in Kindergarten revealed a slight curvature in Kaylee’s spine. Curvatures are measured in degrees, and at that time, her curvature was 12 degrees. This didn’t surprise her Mom, Miriam Ferguson, since she was also diagnosed with scoliosis as a child.
Kaylee’s pediatrician and Dr. Chester Sharps at Tuckahoe Orthopaedics followed her closely throughout her elementary school years. By age 12, her curvature had progressed to 25 degrees. Dr. Sharps then fitted her with a brace. In many children, that is sufficient to keep the curve from getting worse.
Unfortunately, the brace did not slow the progression of the scoliosis. By age 14, the curvature had gotten much worse. Her spine had twisted into an “S” shape. Kaylee recalls, “At that point, I was experiencing annoying pain that wouldn’t go away. It really hurt, day and night. At my next appointment, I saw Dr. Tuten since Dr. Sharps was out of town. Dr. Tuten suggested it was now time to consider surgery. I agreed it was time but the idea of surgery terrified me! I knew all about my Mom’s scoliosis and difficult surgery. My mom wore a cast from the neck down to her lower waist for six months and was in the hospital for four of those months. She was then fitted with a smaller cast which she wore for three months.”
Scoliosis surgery is generally recommended for curves more than 45 degrees. Once the curve progresses to 45 degrees, the curve will continue to worsen. The first goal of the surgery is to halt curve progression. Scoliosis surgical advancements mean that additional goals are being met more frequently. State-of-the-art surgical techniques and instrumentation now allow orthopaedic surgeons to correct the spine deformity, allow more space for the heart and lungs, balance the shoulder asymmetry and decrease the size of the rib hump. The surgery results in a straighter and more balanced spine and prevents the curve from returning to its original position of deformity.
Dr. Tuten explained to Kaylee that scoliosis surgery in 2010 was very different from her mom’s experience in 1972. He asked Kaylee and her parents to consider using Kryptonite bone cement in the surgery. He had been part of a research team to develop this bone adhesive, which allows bone growth and provides rapid stabilization. It is essentially a glue that the bone can grow into, and it hardens to become a porous substance similar to bone. Kryptonite meant Kaylee’s recovery would be shorter and she would experience less pain. Rather than using the conventional two rods and 24-26 screws that hold the vertebrae in place, the Kryptonite would require one road and 12-13 screws. Kaylee and her parents consented for him to use Kryptonite.
Kaylee remembers her conversation with Dr. Tuten prior to the surgery, “I had done a lot of research and had many questions for Dr. Tuten. He made me feel that he had all the time in the world for me. He sat down next to me and answered all of my questions and let me know exactly what to expect. I liked that about him.”
Kaylee had her surgery in May 2010. She was up and walking the day after surgery. Walking was a big part of her recovery, so she walked twice a day for 20 minutes. She managed the pain with medication.
“I was the first person in the nation to have scoliosis surgery with Kryptonite!”
Her recovery was much faster than her mom’s, and she didn’t need to wear a body cast. By the end of the first month, she went to the beach. She could not swim yet, but could enjoy walking on the beach and watching the waves! After two months, she went to summer camp. Six months later, she was back to soccer and even played in a soccer tournament!
Kaylee smiles and reflects on the experience, “Dr. Tuten is awesome. He changed my life. No more back brace. No more pain. And … everyone refers to me as the girl with the great posture!”
Update – August 2013: Kaylee is doing well and will be attending Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA this fall. She plans to study Biology Education.