Morgan Galeas, a busy, bubbling-with-laughter 14-year-old, couldn’t say goodbye to her scoliosis brace fast enough.
Nothing slows Morgan down, not even the scoliosis brace that became part of her daily routine when she went for her annual check-up at age 11.
“Morgan had just finished fifth grade when our pediatrician suspected she had scoliosis,” remembers her mom, Jennifer. “We saw a specialist, had x-rays and the diagnosis of scoliosis was confirmed. I knew nothing about scoliosis, but my goal became to learn about it.”
She discovered that scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine and the primary age when it occurs is 10-15 years.
It was difficult for Jennifer to accept her youngest child had the disease. “We wanted a second opinion, and Dr. Borden was recommended,” she says.
Timothy C. Borden, M.D., is an Assistant Professor in our Department of Orthopedic Surgery at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specializes in pediatric orthopedic conditions, including pediatric scoliosis and spine disorders.
One of the treatment options was for Morgan to wear a scoliosis brace that holds the spine in a straight position. “Morgan wore the brace for one year and then we shifted to a different type of scoliosis brace but her back continued to get worse,” explains her mom.
Unfortunately, bracing is not perfect and scoliosis curves can continue to get larger in 15 to 25% of the children who wear their brace.
“We liked Dr. Borden and Dr. Mundluru from the beginning,” she says. “They gave us confidence that Morgan’s condition was treatable.”
Dr. Borden recommended surgery for Morgan due to the severity of her curve. The goal of spinal fusion surgery for scoliosis is to fuse the vertebrae in order to prevent the curve from becoming larger, and correct the curvature as much as possible.
If the spinal fusion surgery was not performed there was a chance that Morgan’s curve would continue to worsen throughout her life.
“We had the choice to do another scoliosis brace, or the spinal fusion surgery and I am so glad we chose surgery,” says Jennifer.
Morgan’s medical team included co-surgeon Surya Mundluru, M.D., Assistant Professor in our Department of Orthopedic Surgery at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) who specializes in pediatric orthopedic surgery and scoliosis.
“Morgan is Dr. Borden’s primary patient, so her success is a credit to his continuum of care for her. I’m honored to have been asked by Dr. Borden to be part of her treatment team,” says Dr. Mundluru. “Spinal fusion is necessary in about 10 percent of all patients who have a diagnosis of scoliosis, and the prevalence of scoliosis is as high as 5.2% in the pediatric/adolescent population.”
Grateful for surgery, speedy recovery
Jennifer was reassured by the information the doctors gave her about the spinal fusion surgery and “we appreciated the attention the team gave Morgan.”
Her surgery was March 4, 2021. “I was nervous about it,” admits Jennifer, “but I am so grateful Morgan had it.” Morgan’s spine curvature is now normal, and her spine is stable.
“Her recovery was fantastic due to Dr. Borden’s dedication,” explains Dr. Mundluru. “It’s a team effort with our excellent nurses and physical therapists, and most important is the primary surgeon’s attention to detail during the recovery process and ensuring she received continued delivery of excellent care and management. We can’t forget the importance of Morgan’s family who encouraged her to keep pushing forward.”
“Morgan’s recovery was amazing,” says Jennifer. “You would never realize what she went through the last several years. She had a fun summer, tubing behind the boat on the lake, jumping on the trampoline, and doing everything she enjoys.”
Jennifer praises her daughter’s resilient spirit and positive attitude. “She’s not embarrassed about her healed incision. In fact, she embraces it.”
Morgan, a freshman at Anahuac High School, has always been athletic and now she enjoys playing basketball.
Morgan’s two older brothers, Christian, 20, and Adam, 17, look out for their younger sister and were big supporters when she had the surgery and during her recovery. Her dad, Rj, helped Morgan walk the hospital hall after surgery and made sure he brought her favorite foods.
“She has a special, close-knit bond with her brothers and dad,” explains Jennifer.
Advice for parents
“Parents should trust their gut instincts when something affects their child,” says Jennifer. “I’m so glad I got a second opinion for Morgan and that is what I recommend to parents. Research the issue so you are prepared for all of your options.”
The experience has inspired Morgan about her future. “It would be great to be a nurse and take care of kids,” she says, flashing her irresistible smile.
One advantage: she has a head start understanding how to help children overcome challenges. And for Morgan, no challenge is too big.