Allie's Halo Journey
Patient Ambassador Allie is no stranger to the bracing system sometimes used to treat scoliosis at Shriners Children’s Philadelphia. In 2018, at just 2 years of age, Allie began receiving care for her severe infantile scoliosis.
Allie’s initial care plan consisted of bracing and casting, which spanned a period of almost two years. During that time, Allie received seven body casts and three braces. The last brace was unable to hold her progressing curve as her body cast had done in the past. It was at that time her physician and Orthopedic Surgeon, Josh Pahys, M.D., decided it was time to speak with Allie’s parents about moving forward with surgery.
“Unfortunately, Allie’s curve progressed beyond the point that bracing and casting could be effective, and we were worried it was getting too severe, “said Dr. Pahys. “We had many discussions with Allie’s family, and we collectively decided it was best to take the next step to surgery.”
As the first step in a two-part process, Allie would spend six weeks in halo traction. Allie’s parents, Jon and Megan, were understandably apprehensive about putting their daughter into halo-traction. The idea of putting a halo ring on her head followed by a lengthy stay in the hospital made them uneasy. However, this concern would soon be alleviated after seeing how much better Allie would feel.
Her first surgery involved placing a halo, screws and pins to help stretch her spine with weights in preparation for part two, the growing rod placement surgery. Growing rod surgery is often recommended for scoliosis patients who have not reached skeletal maturity and need the ability for continued growth. The growing rods are attached to the spine above and below the curve. Patients return for routine care to expand the rods as needed to keep up with their growth.
I know a lot of parents panic and struggle with agreeing to halo [traction]. A few parents in a social media group I belong to said it made them feel a lot better about their own children going for halo [traction] after seeing Allie laughing, singing and even running.
During her inpatient hospital stay, Allie’s physical therapist and dietician helped her get stronger and healthier in preparation for surgery. She also enjoyed frequent art and music therapy sessions, working with the hospital schoolteacher to keep up with her schoolwork, and her time in recreational therapy.
Megan has openly expressed her gratitude for the care her daughter received at Shriners Children’s Philadelphia. “Shriners Children’s has impacted Allie’s life by giving her the ability to grow, while caring for her scoliosis, in a way that does not cause her to be in daily pain,” said Megan. “Allie has been shown how to embrace her scoliosis and shares her experiences to help others.”
Today, Allie is an outgoing, energetic 5-year-old! She loves arts and crafts, music, using her imagination, and playing with other kids.