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Go Theo Go!

With a team of orthopedic specialists in her corner, nothing can slow her down.

Theodora (Theo, for short) is a vibrant, spirited and active toddler who has one speed: go!

Whether it is splashing through puddles, chasing her older sister, Lucy, or exploring a new art project, this little one brings her family big joy.

When Theo was a baby, her parents, Ellie and Lucien, noticed that she often leaned to her right side, and dragged her left leg a little when she crawled. By the time she was 14 months old, she had a noticeable limp when walking, but, despite regular checkups with her pediatrician, Ellie and Lucien were reassured that there was no cause for concern. When Theo’s daycare provider also voiced concerns about her gait, Ellie and Lucien decided to get a second opinion. They brought her to Shriners Children’s New England.

Orthopedic specialist Adam Iwanski, PA-C, identified an issue within minutes of his examination of Theo. “I found that she had slightly less range of motion at the left hip compared to the right,” he said. “In addition, she appeared to have a leg length discrepancy. I recommended we take X-rays to further evaluate her hips.”

The X-rays showed exactly what Adam had suspected, a clear dislocation of Theo’s left hip. Known as developmental hip dysplasia (DDH), the condition occurs in babies and children when the hip joint has not formed normally, causing the ball of the thighbone to be outside the hip socket. In the United States, approximately one to two babies per 1,000 are born with DDH. It usually affects the left hip and is predominant in girls and babies born in breech position.

Adam immediately consulted with pediatric orthopedic surgeon Rubini Pathy, M.D., and introduced her to Theo’s parents. Dr. Pathy explained Theo’s diagnosis to Ellie and Lucien, and reviewed treatment options. For a dislocation, surgery is the preferred option in order to obtain a normal hip shape and normal hip function, while minimizing the risk of early hip osteoarthritis.

“When we learned Theo would need surgery, we were in shock and so devastated,” said Ellie. “Theo had all of the signs: less mobility on one side, limping and even legs of different lengths. It was difficult to understand how this was missed before. We were so overwhelmed, but I will never forget the kindness, patience and reassurance that was shown to us that day. I knew we brought Theo to the best place to help her.”

According to Dr. Pathy, surgery could help Theo avoid pain, limping, early degenerative changes in her hip or even a possible total hip replacement as a young adult.

I knew we brought Theo to the best place to help her.
Ellie, Theo's mom

One week later, Dr. Pathy performed surgery to shorten Theo’s thighbone to properly fit the bone into the socket. The day, Ellie recalled, was the longest and hardest day of her and her husband’s lives. “We were overwhelmed, but the nurses and child life specialist Annie comforted us and kept us updated with each minute that passed.”

Although not an easy decision for Theo’s parents, they know they made the right one for their family. “Surgery gave Theo the best possible chance to remain active, with as little pain as possible throughout her life,” said Ellie.

Post operation, Theo wore a hip cast for nine weeks to assist in the healing process. Once this cast was removed, she wore a rhino brace – a foam and plastic brace that holds the hips in correct position while remaining flexible enough for walking – full time for nine months, equating to 20 hours per day.

Almost a year to the day of Theo’s hip dysplasia diagnosis, she and her family finally had a sense of relief. She only needs to wear her brace at night, giving her the added freedom to run, play and move as she pleases. Although there is still a chance of needing additional surgeries in the future as she grows, Theo remains on the go and continues to show the strength of her spirit – all thanks to Shriners Children’s.

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