It has nearly been 3 months, yet again, since our last visit to Shriners Children’s in Greenville, SC. As always, the number of things that can change in that amount of time can be mind-boggling. Despite our successes in therapy, this visit has always been at the forefront of my mind. This visit is where things change yet again. The next chapter. We enter the world of Mehta casting, for Harrison’s scoliosis.
For this first casting, they gave us a 2-day visit to Greenville. Because Harrison was being put to sleep for the procedure; they occupied the first day with pre-op funsies. Including a chat with Dr. Pete.
Dr. Peter Stasikelis
Dr. Pete is a member of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America and the Scoliosis Research Society, just to name a few. He is the longest-serving pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Shriners children’s Greenville. Dr. Pete is renowned for his expertise in infantile scoliosis and uses Mehta casting for treatment. In addition to spine care, Dr. Stasikelis also has special interests in limb deformities and neuromuscular diseases.
A Mehta cast is a plaster cast that is used to help treat early onset scoliosis by slowly and gently correcting spinal deformities. The casts also prevent spine deformities, in Harrison’s case, the curve in his spine, from worsening. (This is key for us) Mehta casts are used to correct this using a small amount of pulling (traction) and pressure. The cast goes from Harrison’s shoulders to the top of his legs. There are openings in the front and back of the cast, which are there to allow him to comfortably breathe and eat.
Mehta casts are changed every two to three months as the child grows. We’re currently expecting visits back to Greenville to be every 6-8 weeks.
Reality of Things
Since our first meeting with Dr. Pete, he has been transparent and honest with us. Because of the location of the curve in Harrison’s spine, plus all his other conditions, he does not expect to cure Harrison of his scoliosis. There is always that 2% chance this kid proves everyone wrong, but the reality of us proceeding with this treatment is to ensure his curve does not get worse. If it continued to get worse as Harrison grew, it could affect internal organs and add additional complications to an already complicated life for our little guy. The hope in all this is that the casting will keep the curve from getting worse, hopefully, correct the curvature some, and prolong the need for surgery and growing rods.
After already dealing with multiple leg casts, the cast with a bar, and the spica cast, I’m not sure why I was as worried as I was about this latest cast. Casting for us is pretty old news. We know the routine with the moleskin, and checking his skin, keeping him cool and dry, etc., etc. We essentially told one nurse who went through the care and treatment of everything that “we got this!”
I can’t truly put into words or explain to you the reactions we get from doctors and nurses when they talk to us. We rarely go into anything without having at least a baseline understanding of what we’re facing. We tend to approach all this realistically and are involved. All things that seem to throw people off. I’m convinced most people we interact with at the hospital aren’t sure how to react to us. Frankly, it’s been like that since the NICU.
Mehta Cast #1
As per our typical routine on procedure day, we arrived at 6:15 am as Harrison was the first one on the docket. Thankfully, he’s getting accustomed to hotel stays, and we were able to get a reasonable night’s sleep the night before. (Going to two queen beds so we can have him in “shifts” through the night vs all 3 of us in a king bed, was one of our smarter choices ever!) Since his spica cast days, we’ve incorporated a wagon into our trips, and that has proven invaluable. As is our routine, Harrison and I hang out on the bed as we wait and the nurse gets his vitals and gets him prepped. Jenna still breastfeeds and Harrison isn’t allowed anything to eat or drink at this point, so holding him on the bed is the best solution for everyone.
The procedure itself took about 90 minutes, which was right on the money for what Dr. Pete had told us. He handled the entire procedure amazingly well, and Dr. Pete was able to get a good correction. A little more recovery time and baby boy was back with us in our room.
Then it was simply a bit of a waiting game. He barely whimpered during recovery and was back to his sassy self after an hour of rest. Letting Harrison eat and drink a bit while the cast hardened, and we were on our way to get the cast wrapped and then on our way home!
Or so we thought…
She wasn’t exactly on the docket, but while Harrison was getting his cast wrapped, Dr. Hyer came by and check Harrison out. She was thrilled with how his feet were looking but wanted him sized for a new pair of AFOs, so they added another visit to POPs to our schedule before we could hit the road.
Also worth noting, and a bit of bragging on our part, but it surprised the cast technician when Dr. Hyer mentioned Harrison’s club feet. She said looking at him, she’d have never guessed that he was a club foot baby! So a nice moment of affirmation, and a good way to cap off the visit.
So now, we’re going to be growing accustomed to this newest cast. I’m sure there will be a bit of setback with sitting and standing as Harrison gets accustomed to the added weight and what I imagine will be his new center of gravity. It sucks, but it is expected. Thankfully, this cast doesn’t seem to bother him or get in his way. He can still barrel roll from one end of the room to the other in the blink of an eye. So, for now, we keep our heads down and continue to move forward. Hope that cooler weather gets here sooner rather than later as it’s a bit too sticky out for cast boy, and begin our debates on Halloween costumes and how we incorporate this cast into one.