It is truly a privilege to share Christian’s story with you. It is a story of inner strength, devotion, family support, and team work. Christian was diagnosed with scoliosis when he was eight years old. Scoliosis is a medical condition where the spine develops a curvature as it grows. Scoliosis is a relatively common condition affecting about 2% of teenagers. Luckily, only about 1/1000 teenagers have the type of curvature that progresses to the point where surgery is required. Scoliosis curves are usually observed on x-rays where the amount of curvature of the spine is measured using geometry.
Initially, the orthopedic surgeon that Christian saw recommended observation of his curve with regular x-rays, but as Christian grew, it became obvious that his curve was getting worse. Eventually, the doctor recommended that Christian begin to wear a brace at night. Unfortunately, Christian’s spine continued to curve even faster.
In one year, Christian’s scoliosis curvature progressed over 30 degrees to the point where the curvature in his thoracic spine measured 85 degrees. Christian’s severe progressive scoliosis was mainly in his thoracic spine. As it worsened, his rib cage was twisted and distorted, and it began to compress his lungs. His severe scoliosis led to a condition known as restrictive lung disease where the stiffness and twisting of the rib cage prevents the lungs from inflating properly.
Christian’s family brought him to meet Dr. Christopher Good at the Virginia Spine Institute when he was 14 years old. Over the past year, the scoliosis had progressed over 30 degrees, and they were still being told that he should just continue wearing the brace at night. As soon as Christian met Dr. Good, his treatment moved forward quickly. Christian had a full evaluation of his breathing and his lungs and also a full evaluation of his spine. Within one month of meeting Dr. Good, Christian was prepared to undergo a spinal reconstruction surgery.
Christian’s scoliosis now measured 85 degrees and he had a severe rotation of his spine and chest that was severely limiting his breathing. Pulmonary function testing confirmed that Christian had lost over 52% of his lung function because of scoliosis. Christian’s family brought him to see Dr. Good for a second opinion because he is a spinal surgeon who specializes in complex surgery and spinal deformity. Dr. Good proposed a scoliosis reconstruction surgery correcting the curvature and rotation in Christian’s spine with metal implants: screws and rods.
Christian underwent spinal reconstruction surgery from T2 to L3 (fourteen levels) later that month. Christian’s procedure took all day to complete, and while he was in surgery, his family waited at the hospital in support. They were with him as soon as he awoke from surgery and went to the ICU. Christian’s surgery was a delicate surgery, but at the end of a long day, Christian’s spine was successfully straightened and fused.
After surgery, all of Christian’s hard work began to pay off big time! He recovered at record pace and Dr. Good told his family that Christian was one of the toughest young men he had ever taken care of. Christian spent one night in the ICU, and went home just four days after a major spinal reconstructive surgery.
At three months out from his surgical procedure, Christian reported not having any residual pain in his back and began increasing his exercise routine with a goal of getting back to play as a goalie on his high school lacrosse team. Christian has returned to a normal life and function and recently returned from a six day trek hiking over 50 miles at high altitude with his Boy Scout troop at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
When Christian and his family met with Dr. Good for his one year postoperative visit, his x-rays show a remarkable correction of his spinal curvature down from 85 degrees of scoliosis to only 35 remaining degrees of scoliosis. Christian’s pulmonology doctor performed testing of his lungs, and we are ecstatic to tell you that Christian’s lung function has already improved by 50% since his surgery!
We take our hats off to Christian! He and his family are an inspiration to all of those who have cared for him and to all other patients fighting spinal problems of their own!
*This story was condensed. To read the full version and get more helpful information about spine health, check out this issue of our Journal.