It was October 31, 2013 and six-year-old Ethan was getting ready to go out trick or treating – his first real Canadian Halloween since his family moved to Calgary from Dublin, Ireland the year before. His mom Denise noticed his back looking a bit strange and right away she thought “scoliosis” even though Ethan had never complained of any pain or discomfort. As she took Ethan to their family doctor who confirmed her fears, Denise wondered “how could we have missed it?” Just two weeks later, Ethan had an appointment with Orthopedics at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and that’s where they met Pediatric Spine Surgeon, Dr. Fabio Ferri-de-Barros.
The curve in Ethan’s spine wasn’t yet severe enough to go straight to surgery, instead the plan would be to try and correct the curve with a brace. Ethan wore a back brace every day for almost a year – 23 hours a day. He could only take it off to bathe and even slept in it. Not surprisingly, Ethan loathed the brace…he felt awkward and uncomfortable and different from the other kids. Unfortunately, despite the brace, the curve in Ethan’s back was getting worse and surgery now couldn’t be avoided.
Dr. Fabio Ferri-de-Barros introduced the family to new, not-yet-approved at ACH technology called MAGEC rods. Titanium rods would be inserted into Ethan’s back and affixed to his spine to keep it straight. As Ethan grew, the rods will be lengthened non-invasively using magnets outside of his body. A lengthening session takes about 45 minutes including an x-ray, is painless and the child is back to school that afternoon. (Standard rods require a surgery every six months to lengthen them.) The new rods would save Ethan from having 15-25 surgeries, which means, less stress, less missed school, less hospital stays, less exposure to general anesthetic – they are a total game-changer!
So in June 2016, Ethan had his surgery and it went great. Now, every three months or so, Ethan sees Dr. Fabio who lengthens the rods about five milimeters each time. Ethan’s spine is so much straighter, he’s active and even playing soccer – but stays in goal where it’s safe!
Denise was very upset and cried constantly at the thought of the standard rods. She feared that her little boy would spend his life in surgery. It takes about six months to recover from surgery and then it would be time for the next one. Thankfully, all of that worry has been taken away with the MAGEC rods. Denise says that Dr. Fabio has literally given Ethan his childhood back.
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