Running, jumping, tumbling, swimming, riding a bike – these are some of the most joyous activities of childhood. But, because of a congenital spine condition, they were all out of reach for young Mary Coleman of Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Mary was about two years old when her family noticed the onset of her back problems. “She just couldn’t do a lot of things the other children could do,” says her grandmother, Jan Coleman.
Notes her physician, Dr. Lawrence Haber, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Ochsner Hospital for Children, “Mary was diagnosed with early onset scoliosis. That means she had a curve in her spine that started at a very young age, much younger than usual.”
The traditional treatment approach for the most severe cases of scoliosis is surgery to implant rods to correct the curvature. But as the child grows, repeated surgeries, with the potential for complications and infections, were typically required to lengthen the devices and continue to control the condition.
In recent years, innovative new technology has been developed: magnetically adjustable rods that are implanted a single time. They are designed to be lengthened non-invasively using a remote-controlled device.
Recalls Dr. Haber, “In Mary’s case, being six years old and needing spine surgery, she was a great candidate for magnetically controlled rods. We put them in through two small incisions, with four screws at the top and four at the bottom to anchor to the spine. Later, we utilized an electronic device used outside the body to activate the rods and make them longer. It has worked tremendously well.”
Dr. Haber performed Mary’s surgery at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans and saw her in Jackson, Mississippi, after the surgery to perform the adjustment procedures. The Colemans were grateful that Dr. Haber and his team had a spinal health center in Flowood, near their home in Mississippi, allowing the family with four kids to avoid a tiring trip to New Orleans. Ochsner’s pediatric orthopedists see patients at Ochsner Health Center – Jackson two to three times a month, allowing for patients to have access to the care they need close to home.
According to Jan Coleman, “Now it’s been two years and Mary’s just a different child. She’s happy, she’s more independent, and she’s willing to accept challenges that she never would before.”
Thanks to Dr. Haber’s care, Mary’s life has been transformed. Says Mary, “Dr. Haber helped my spine get straight. Now I can do flips, swim, jump, ride my bike. They helped me and loved me. They cared for me.”
Her grandmother says it best: “I told Dr. Haber, God gave you a talent. And with that talent, you took my baby and gave her a new life.”