Two years ago, Berenice and Michael were celebrating the arrival of their beautiful baby boy, Franco. He was perfect in every way, except for a tiny irregularity on the small of his back which caught the sharp eyes of the delivery team. After several scans, experts determined that Franco had a tethered spinal cord, which meant his spinal cord was connected to his spine by a ligament that just hadn’t developed properly. As a result, the spinal cord was unable to grow freely within the spinal column, which caused the spinal cord to stretch out. In Franco’s case, it had also caused a sack of spinal fluid, a cyst, to form inside his spinal cord from his lower back up to his neck.
Franco’s diagnosis could lead to severe pain and nerve damage. He was in jeopardy of losing leg, bladder and bowel function, and if things progressed past that, even paralysis. Thankfully, they met Dr. Jay Riva-Cambrin who put their worst fears at rest and could help Franco through an intricate spine surgery.
This past August, using donor-funded ultrasound technology, Dr. Riva-Cambrin performed a surgery where he opened up Franco’s back and spinal column to carefully cut away the spinal cord from the affected ligament. This allowed the spinal cord to move freely, and the cyst would now disappear over time. The ultrasound enabled him to see exactly where the cord was attached and where he would need to cut – allowing him to work with more precision, in millimetres instead of centimetres. Less bone loss and smaller incisions also meant less pain and shorter recovery times for Franco, who was at home with his family within three or four days. Not long after his surgery, Franco was back to doing what two-year-olds do best – running, jumping and getting into everything!
It’s hard for Bernice and Michael to put into words just how grateful they are that people in the community, strangers to them, funded a piece of equipment that allowed surgeons to save their son’s life.
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