Sara was diagnosed with scoliosis at 5 and a half years old. Her 5-year checkup in April 2003 had a routine checkup for scoliosis, but no curve was detected. Six months later, after noticing her bathing suit in the summer, Sara simply did not look straight and we decided to have her checked again. An X-ray showed that she had about 37 degrees of a curve to the left from her lower dorsal (T-7) towards her upper lumbar (L1) vertebrae.
Sara’s medical problems were not new to us. At 6 months of age, Sara had surgery to remove a tumor from her abdomen. After which she had a lot of feeding/vomiting problems for several years, being hospitalized for dehydration on several occasions.
At the time of diagnosis of scoliosis, we face a daunting future for her. At first, we were told that she was very young and had much more growth to go. She would probably have to undergo surgery to merge her spine in the end. They told us that orthopedic braces for the treatment of scoliosis would only stabilize the curve she already had, in an attempt to prevent it from getting worse and were not designed to correct the curve.
However, we were also told at that time there was no way to predict how she would respond to an orthopedic device. Her curve had progressed rapidly (not detectable at 37 degrees in six months) and was classified as neither child scoliosis nor adolescent scoliosis. Although they gave us several theories, there was really no consensus as to the cause. Fortunately, an MRI discarded more serious problems, although there was the possibility of an anchored spinal cord. We are currently using the Somatosensory Potential Electrode (PESS) results to monitor it, but we are confident at this point that it does not have an anchored marrow.
Dr. Gomez’s approach was very different. Instead of simply creating a force directly on the original curve, he looked at the entire spine in all three dimensions. He explained that in order to create a straight column that was actually stable, the proper force had to be applied in all three dimensions.
The column had to be straightened from the base upwards. He explained that the theme was similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You can make the tower as straight as possible, but it will still bow unless you see it from all dimensions; The X, Y, and Z.
Sara has been under the care of Dr. Gomez since October 2003. Since then she has had several different supports, all dealing with different problems and applying different forces in different areas as she has grown and changed.
Currently, the two curves in her spine measured by X-rays are so insignificant that the orthopedist does not even want to assign them a number. But, more importantly, clinically, she is also fairly stable.
Sara has been extremely cooperative and positive about using her orthopedic appliance. We have never seen it in a negative light. Of course, the braces come in a wide range of “fashionable designs”. She currently uses the “cheetah” style, having passed the “butterfly” phase. We have always considered it a ticket to avoid surgery, as a tool to avoid spinal fusion, and as an incredible piece of engineering. We are committed to using it according to the instructions, 23 hours a day, because we understand that this is a small price to pay for huge results later.
Also, the device is not shown underneath your clothing so that no one knows you are using it, unless she chooses to tell you. However, we have realized through this experience that the corset is only as good as the design and the designer behind it. Dr. Gomez’s experience has really made a difference. He has a deep knowledge of physics, the different aspects, and the specific medical problems that underlie the subject. He takes a large number of measurements and considers a number of factors when designing each of Sara’s props, taking into account that forces must be placed in what areas and to what degree. It is this attention to the specific details of each case that really impresses us. We do not have a generic “for scoliosis” orthopedic device, we have a support designed for the specific needs of Sara at each specific time. In addition to this, Dr. Gomez is one of the most humble and respectful doctors we have ever known. He takes the time to explain specific problems, not just to us as parents, but to Sara as well. His open and honest communication style really helps our understanding, Sarah’s positive attitude, and ultimately our success in treatment. In addition to this, Dr. Gomez is one of the most humble and respectful doctors we have ever known.