In shiny pink boots, eight-year-old Hannah dances and twirls in a waiting area at Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH). It's an amazing sight because when she was born in Alabama, some doctors believed Hannah would never walk. Born with severe spina bifida, Hannah's spine and spinal cord didn't develop properly. She was missing five ribs on her right side, and had severe scoliosis and tilted hips.
"We started seeing a lot of doctors at the hospital where she was born," her mother, Camille, said. "Nobody wanted to touch her. They were afraid that if they operated, she wouldn't make it."
Her parents turned to the Mayo Clinic for help, where surgeons repaired some of the spinal cord and nerve damage, but not long after that first surgery, Hannah lost the ability to use her legs. That's when the family reached out to Arkansas Children's.
Our pediatric specialists at ACH decided the best strategy in Hannah's case would be to try gently straightening the spine before joining some of the vertebrae together with a spinal fusion procedure. For six weeks, Hannah wore a device called a 'halo' that helped straighten some of the curving from her neck and spine.
“It meant a lot to me as a parent to see how much time they spent with Hannah helping her calm down and not be so afraid,” Hannah’s mother said.
Dr. David Bumpass, an orthopedic spine surgeon at ACH, installed the halo and, once it had done its work, surgically fused some of Hannah's vertebrae to permanently straighten her spine. This allowed the electrical impulses from her brain to travel down her spine, giving her control of her legs again.
From there, physical therapists worked with Hannah until she reached that milestone so magical for many parents-seeing their child's first steps. "All of my fears started to melt away," her mother said.
Physical therapy continued, allowing Hannah to dance, sing and do karate. As an eight-year-old looking back on her time at Arkansas Children's Hospital, Hannah said, "They're really fun, and they always make people have a good time at the doctor's office."