Spine Surgery Helps Adopted Chinese Kids Stand Taller

A Colorado Springs family that opened their home and their hearts to several children in need of adoption have benefited from life-changing scoliosis surgery for two of those they adopted from China. Andy and Amy Leong have adopted a total of six children in the last several years, including Moriah and Josh. When the couple adopted Josh they knew that he had severe scoliosis, a condition that their daughter had already been diagnosed with. Five years ago in 2012, they brought 9-year old Josh to see Dr. Shay Bess at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. He performed scoliosis surgery on the child and now has done the same for his sister.

Scoliosis surgery can be done in a few different ways, but the most frequently performed surgery is spinal fusion, which uses rods, hooks, wires or screws, attaching them to the backbone and straightening the spine. Small sections of bone are then placed over the spine, allowing the sections to grow together in the correct position. This procedure stops the curve from progressing, reduces the deformity, and provides the patient with a natural balance.

Josh is now 14 years old, a friendly and talkative young man who speaks enthusiastically about the change that the surgery has made in his life. “I’ve been running a lot this summer, trying to get my speed up.” Ten-year-old Moriah had her surgery this past March. As a result, she is now three inches taller, the bump that had disfigured her back is gone, and she is feeling much better.

Dr. Bess says that the curvature in Moriah’s back was so severe that in addition to creating an arch, it also had twisted her spine. To repair the problem he removed a segment of the spine, manipulated it to straightened it out, then inserted four rods to support it and keep it growing in the right direction. The operation lasted eight hours.

Both of the children are now happier and much more active. Both can stand up straight. Speaking of the most recent surgery that happened just three months ago, Andy Leong says his daughter is “Just more energetic, seems more full of life from that transformation.” As for Moriah, she reports that now that she is so much taller, she sometimes hits her head on cabinets that had not presented a clearance problem before.

Scoliosis most frequently affects adolescents, though Moriah’s severe curvature had already been diagnosed by the time that she was 3 years old. In most cases, there is no known cause for the condition, though there is some research to indicate that it may be genetically linked.

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