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Joanna Hawthorn is the First SHILLA Patient

Maranda Hawthorn noticed her daughter Joanna had a bulge on the left side of her back when she was about 6 months old. When she went to the doctor, x-rays revealed that Joanna's spine was curved and she was referred to Arkansas Children's.

When it became obvious that Joanna would need surgery due to the progression of the curve of her spine, Dr. Richard McCarthy explained his pioneering procedure, called SHILLA, to them. SHILLA uses two rods and special "growing" screws on the spine that grows with Joanna, preventing her from having surgery every 6 months.

Though Maranda and her family were nervous, they trusted Dr. McCarthy and agreed to let Joanna be the first patient for this procedure.

"Although we had fear and many questions, it was an honor [for Joanna] to be his first patient," Maranda said. "We knew that she was in great care with Dr. McCarthy and ultimately in the Lord's care. We knew this was the Lord's plan for Joanna's life."

The result from the Hawthorns taking a leap with Dr. McCarthy and SHILLA has been a world of opportunity and joy.

"Joanna's scoliosis was life-threatening," Maranda said. "Had we not done this surgery, she would not be with us today. We are so thankful for her life." Joanna, who turns 15 in July, visits Dr. McCarthy twice a year now. She will always have a curvature in her spine, but it is no longer life-threatening.

"Dr. McCarthy is like a part of our family. We love him and respect him so much and always thank the Lord for placing him in our lives. He is so caring and an excellent doctor," Maranda said. "The staff at Arkansas Children's have been so wonderful too. From the ones who cleaned our room for us daily to our nurses. Everybody was so kind!"

Because Joanna received such excellent care from the staff at Arkansas Children's, she wants to become an occupational therapist for children and help them the way our staff helped her.

Early detection is key to help patients with scoliosis avoid a lifetime of complications. Catching the beginning of scoliosis in children and teenagers ensures the most options for treating the curvature and slowing or stopping the progression.