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Keauna's Decade-long Journey to Pain Relief

After encountering many misdiagnoses, Keauna’s family was met with compassion and increased mobility at Shriners Children’s St. Louis.

When she was 11, Keauna loved playing sports.

You could often find her in the gym, practicing for her next basketball game or volleyball match. At first glance, she was an active little girl. You would have never known that behind the scenes, Keauna was experiencing debilitating pain.

Born with a leg difference, Keauna’s shins twisted inward. As she stood, her knees would overlap and any sort of movement caused excruciating pain. As that pain continued to worsen, her family looked for answers.

News from several Kansas physicians proved disheartening. The medical teams who examined Keauna were unfamiliar with her symptoms and did not know how to help. “I’ll be honest, for a while, I felt like I was a parent who couldn’t provide for their child like she needed. I felt like we weren’t doing our part,” her father, Cory, said.

However, Cory held out hope that Keauna’s quality of life would improve; a hope that ultimately led them to Shriners Children’s St. Louis. “All of a sudden, the stars aligned,” said Cory. When Keauna arrived at the St. Louis hospital, she was met with kindness and compassion.

I knew I was leaving that day with answers. I knew my life was going to be changed forever.
Keauna, former Shriners Children's patient

During her appointment, Eric Gordon, M.D., sat next to her. He didn’t wear the traditional physician’s white coat, which they knew was purposeful – to make her feel even more comfortable. Using a conversational approach, Dr. Gordon asked questions, getting to know Keauna and the challenges she had faced. “He made the appointment more about Keauna the person than Keauna the patient,” said Cory. “We knew we were right where we needed to be.”

As Dr. Gordon looked at her recent scans, he knew exactly what was wrong. Keauna had internal tibial torsion, an unusual condition causing her shins to grow inward instead of straight. A unique anatomy was responsible for the additional stress on her knees. That’s when it all began to make sense for Keauna and her family.

In a matter of 20 minutes, Keauna and her parents received the answers they had been seeking for 11 years. Grateful, she left St. Louis that day with a treatment plan and surgery date in hand. On February 1, 2017, she underwent internal tibial torsion surgery. Dr. Gordon operated on both legs, straightening her tibias.

While the surgery was a success, Keauna’s road to recovery continued. With her bones in the corrected positions, her leg and hip muscles had to learn how to walk properly. Attending physical therapy two to three times a week for six months, Keauna fought hard for her pain-free mobility.

X-ray of tibias post surgery with steel plate screws for internal tibial torsion

X-ray of Keauna's tibias after surgery, including a steel plate and screws so that her tibias face forward

Thanks to Gordon and the team at Shriners Children’s St. Louis, Keauna’s quality of life improved exponentially. The confidence and positive perspective she gained throughout her Shriners Children's experience were priceless. Amid recovery, she discovered a passion for helping others. As a teenager, you could often find her volunteering by playing games with the residents of a local nursing home. “I want to impact other people because of how Shriners has impacted me as a person,” Keauna said.

She also took up golf, a sport she loves playing with her dad. During her senior year of high school, her team won the Kansas state championship. Thankfully, she played with no physical discomfort. She attributes her success on the greens and the confidence she had to compete at that level to the care she received at Shriners Children’s St. Louis.

Now 19, Keauna has been chosen as the honorary captain of the 2024 Kansas Shrine Bowl, a high school football game that raises money and awareness for Shriners Children’s St. Louis. She looks forward to representing the hospital and being reunited with the mission that impacted her life so deeply.

“It’s my favorite time of the year,” Keauna said.

Attending Ft. Hayes State University, Keauna hopes to become an elementary school teacher. As a future educator, she looks forward to making a difference in her students’ lives, just like the team at Shriners Children’s made in hers.

leg difference patient with physician

Keauna stands with her Shriners Children’s physician, Eric Gordon, M.D., during a follow-up appointment at the clinic.

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