Sporting a Superman sock on her left foot and Batman on her right, Bella Burton, a 12-year-old from Woburn, Massachusetts, listens intently to her orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lawrence Karlin. Lots of people mix up their socks, he tells her. “You should really stand out from the crowd. Wear unmatched shoes.”
She chuckles and pretends to ponder his advice. Ultimately, Bella decides against Karlin’s fashion tips.
The exchange is typical of Bella and Karlin, says her mother Rachel.
The pair first met in 2007 at the Boston Children’s Hospital Orthopedic Center when Bella was just a toddler. Genetic experts suspected Bella had Morquio syndrome, a rare birth defect whose symptoms include abnormal bone and spine development and possible heart and vision problems.
As Bella underwent genetic testing, Rachel and her husband Ed faced a flutter of uncertainty. “We were so new to Boston Children’s, and Bella’s diagnosis wasn’t confirmed.”