Christopher Edney, peds ortho patient

News, Child Health | 3 months ago

Putting Christopher’s Childhood in Arm’s Reach With Orthopedic Surgery

Today, Christopher does pushups and pull-ups with the best of them. You’d never guess he had surgery to correct his arm when he was just a baby.

There are some things you can plan for before your baby is born. Like where you’ll deliver, how you’ll conquer contractions and who you want by your side.

Like many soon-to-be moms, Mercedes Edney had done everything they could to prepare for the arrival of their baby boy. Although childbirth doesn’t always go according to plan, the one thing she hadn’t expected was that her newborn would be born with brachial plexus birth injury. This is a rare, unpredictable condition – occurring only in about 1 in 1,000 births – where a baby is born with an injury at birth. In Christopher’s case, it was associated with a broken right arm.

Fortunately, because Mercedes had chosen an Atrium Health Women’s Care OB/GYN for her pregnancy, she delivered at Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center. It’s next door to Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital, which is the only children’s hospital in Charlotte awarded by U.S. News & World Report and ranks among the nation’s best for pediatric orthopedics.

Almost immediately, Christopher began physical therapy in hopes that his arm would heal on its own. But when there were no improvements after 6 months, his orthopedic team knew it was time to consider the next step: surgery.

“We were able to recognize his injury pattern as a baby and had the experience and surgical skill to determine what needed to happen and how to fix it. We also have a diverse surgical skill set to offer him the full gamut of treatment options. There are few places in the country that offer this level of care,” says Bryan J. Loeffler, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and associate professor of orthopedics at Atrium Health Levine Children’s.  

But like any mother, Mercedes wanted to be sure surgery was the right choice and threw herself into learning everything she could about brachial plexus birth injury. “No one wants to hear their baby needs surgery,” she says. After joining every Facebook group, watching every online video and observing her son, she knew: Surgery wasn’t just one option for Christopher – it was the best option and would be most beneficial in the long run.

“These surgeries prevent Christopher from having problems with his arm later on. We do these procedures to improve his function now, but also to reduce the risk of shoulder problems in the future,” explains Dr. Loeffler, who worked alongside colleagues Daniel Lewis, MD, and Glenn Gaston, MD, to ensure Christopher’s procedures were a success.

Christopher needed 2 surgeries to correct his arm. The first, when he was 6 months, repaired the nerve in his bicep and released tension in his muscles. Within days, he began lifting his arm for the first time. The second surgery, a tendon transfer when he was 18 months, gave his arm full range of motion. Within a day, he was climbing and running and being a kid – cast and all.

“It’s a real honor and privilege to take care of kids like Christopher. To have a multidisciplinary team to evaluate these kids as babies, make the proper decisions on surgeries and timing of intervention, and follow them on as time goes on – it’s all part of the comprehensive care we offer,” says Dr. Loeffler.

Giving all the hugs and high fives

Though Christopher still has follow-up visits with his orthopedic team, there are no plans for additional surgeries. And while Mercedes is relieved to have this part of Christopher’s journey behind them, she’s grateful for Levine Children’s Hospital and the medical family they have here. Mercedes says, “I adore the whole staff. They’ve watched my son grow since he was a newborn and have always loved him.”

Christopher spent the first 2 years of his life basically unable to use his right arm. Today, the 4-year-old can high five, hug, bounce a basketball and do everything any other kid can. He even challenges his dad to pushups and pull-ups! “To be able to take a kid whose arm doesn’t work and see him doing all these things now, it’s extremely rewarding,” says Dr. Loeffler.

We’d ask Christopher what he thinks about it all. But you know what? He’s busy being an active, on-the-go kid, which is everything we could’ve ever hoped for.