Stories about: Our Patients’ Stories

First-of-its-kind knee surgery gets Ashley in the swing

meniscus transplantSixteen-year-old Ashley Meyer never planned to golf. At age 5, she had a different plan. She wanted to cheer — and to be the best cheerleader.

Ashley never planned to be a Red Sox fan either. But during baseball season, the Philadelphia native shuns Phillies wear, donning Red Sox garb instead. And when basketball season rolls around, she’s often sporting Celtics’ green rather than 76ers’ blue.

We knew right away. Ashley turned to me and said, ‘Mom, he’s the one who will fix me.’

“We call her the Philly traitor,” jokes Ashley’s mom Loreen, a nurse at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

Nicknames aside, Loreen and her husband Robert are fine with their daughter’s affinity for Boston.

After all, it’s the city where Ashley regained her mobility.

Ashley’s health challenges started when she was 5. Her knee would click and lock.

Although Ashley always seemed to be smiling, the pain often kept her from running or playing, says Loreen.

Loreen took Ashley to her pediatrician and then a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. An MRI showed a discoid meniscus. The condition, characterized by an abnormally shaped meniscus, can cause knee pain or knee popping. Typically, children with these symptoms can be treated via arthroscopic surgery.

Ashley had her first surgery to reshape and repair her meniscus at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“She did OK and stuck with her physical therapy, but she plateaued to a point that left her with ongoing pain and difficulty walking,” says Loreen.

Over the next two years, Ashley had two more knee surgeries at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children to repair her meniscus.

Each time, the result was the same. She’d get better, but the pain would persist, and walking grew increasingly challenging. She needed crutches, a walker and then a wheelchair.

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‘Don’t let dyslexia hold you back’

14-year-old Josh has dyslexia

In kindergarten, while other students were beginning to read books, Josh Thibeau was still learning the alphabet. “I thought, I can’t read so why even try. I thought it was a waste of time.”

Five to 17 percent of all children in the U.S. have developmental dyslexia. Josh is one of them.

Children with dyslexia — often caused by some difference in normal brain development and damage to the brain — have trouble with comprehension because they can’t read text accurately or fluently.

Josh, now 14, has four other siblings, three of whom also have dyslexia. “We are very fortunate because if Josh had been a first child, we would not have noticed any of the signs,” says Josh’s mom Janet Thibeau.

During his early years in school, Josh found it difficult to keep up with his classmates. He was not able to associate letters to the sound they made. “I really hated it because I couldn’t show what kind of person I could be,” says Josh. “Other students were reading books I really wanted to read, but I couldn’t because I still had no idea what sound the alphabet made.”

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After Moyamoya surgery, a back-to-normal birthday for Carolyn

moyamoya-surgery
Before Moyamoya surgery

Carolyn Milks turns 8 on August 21. It’s a big celebration. Carolyn and her family aren’t just celebrating her birthday — they’re celebrating Carolyn’s return to normal. For most of the summer, things like swimming, riding her bicycle and horsing around with her sisters and cousins had been out of the question for Carolyn.

But on August 11, Dr. Ed Smith, co-director of the Boston Children’s Hospital Cerebrovascular Surgery and Interventions Center, gave Carolyn the green light. She could go back to being a kid.

“This is what kids really want. They just want to be normal and do their normal activities,” says Carolyn’s mother Kristen.

It had been a topsy-turvy spring for the Milks family.

My heart and mind froze. Her whole left side was weak. … Only one part of the body controls both the arm and the leg. I thought, ‘Carolyn has something wrong with her brain.’

Carolyn, normally a bright, active second grader, started having puzzling symptoms in March.

“She was having a hard time concentrating on her homework and was crying, and my husband and I couldn’t figure out why,” recalls Kristen.

Over the next few days Kristen, an occupational therapist, began observing strange movements in her daughter’s left arm and hand. Carolyn appeared to struggle with everyday activities like holding a pencil, tying her shoes, and she even tried to switch her hand dominance. Kristen set up her phone to video Carolyn.

At the end of the week, while Carolyn, her twin sister Laura and their big sister Emma, were playing at a trampoline park, Kristen watched the videos.

“I was becoming alarmed at what I saw with the functioning in her left arm and hand. Later that day, I watched Carolyn almost fall doing a back bend. Her left arm didn’t hold her weight. And then when I watched her walk, she almost fell a couple of times; she didn’t have full control of her left leg. My heart and mind froze. Her whole left side was weak. … Only one part of the body controls both the arm and the leg. I thought, ‘Carolyn has something wrong with her brain.’”

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Heroes, hospitals and helicopters: Cardiac care at 20,000 feet

Caroline-Lake-PVS-sleeping

Everyone knows physicians save lives in hospitals. That’s where they do most of their work. But the story of my daughter’s medical emergency is a little different. How she survived a medical flight from Iowa City, Iowa, to Boston is straight out of MacGyver!

Caroline was born with primary pulmonary venous stenosis (PVS), a dangerous disease that took her brother Benjamin’s life.

[T]he nurses were trying everything to keep her stable. The flight team desperately needed guidance.

When she was just over a month old, Caroline was flown to the Boston Children’s Hospital Heart Center for treatment. She spent eight weeks in the hospital before we took her home to Iowa.

Two months later, Caroline developed a suspected recurrence of PVS and needed emergent care again in Boston.

My wife Maleia and I did everything we could to save Caroline’s life. Maleia joined Caroline in the medical transport, and our race against the clock began. Caroline’s first flight had gone very smoothly, but this one would be different.

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