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Orillia girl 'doing great' after scoliosis correction surgery in Germany

Sienna Rhodes, 12, returned home two weeks ago; 'It’s completely transformed her body,' her mom says

An Orillia girl is home from Germany after undergoing surgery for her scoliosis.

Sienna Rhodes, 12, was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in June. X-rays had shown her lumbar (lower spine) curve was at almost 70 degrees and her thoracic (upper spine) curve was at nearly 60 degrees.

Her parents, Julie McCrackin and Jamie Rhodes, decided to seek an alternative procedure for Sienna after learning the suggested spinal fusion offered in Canada would likely change her life forever — not necessarily in a positive way — due to the extreme curving of her spine.

Her parents learned about anterior scoliosis correction, but that procedure is not available in Canada and is not covered under OHIP.

So, the family decided to make the trip to Germany, and a GoFundMe campaign was launched to help with expenses. The effort has raised more than $53,000 — almost $20,000 more than the fundraising goal.

“We didn't even expect to raise the goal we had. People just kept offering to do fundraising,” McCrackin said, noting the amount raised almost covers the entire cost of the surgery. “I don’t really have any words to describe it. We’re so grateful, especially in the COVID situation, when everyone’s got their own struggles.”

Sienna is “doing great,” her mom said.

“Everything went well. She’s in the recovery process now,” she said.

The three of them returned from Germany about two weeks ago. Sienna is able to walk short distances, and she will soon start therapy to help even her muscle tone in various areas from her knees to her shoulders.

The surgery — which was entirely done laparoscopically — took about six hours.

It required two two-inch incisions on each of Sienna’s sides, and doctors also had to deflate her lungs to allow for access to the spine.

Waiting for the procedure to begin “was the hardest part,” McCrackin said.

“I honestly felt much more calm while she was having the surgery,” she said, adding the initial meeting with Dr. Per Trobisch and his team put her mind at ease.

“We put a lot of faith in a person we’d never met. Once we got there, we realized how dynamic the team was. We knew she was in good hands.”

It would be understandable for someone Sienna’s age to worry about such a procedure, but she maintained a positive attitude.

“She’s never wavered from the positivity she’s had from the beginning,” McCrackin said. “Her mantra was, ‘Let’s get this over with,’ and she said that with a smile. I don’t even think she’s cried at all. She’s just strong. It was almost like a role reversal: She was keeping us at ease.”

Sienna’s road to recovery is a long one.

Therapy will be painful. She will have X-rays done at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children in a few weeks, then again at the six-month and one-year marks. Depending on her progress, she might have to return to Germany.

For now, though, with 18 screws in 12 of her vertebrae, the difference in her condition is like night and day. Plus, she is now two inches taller thanks to the surgery.

“It’s completely transformed her body,” McCrackin said, adding Sienna’s spine should continue to straighten as she grows, thanks to the tethering procedure.

When her parents saw the pre- and post-surgery X-rays side by side, they were “blown away.”

“The correction was beyond what we’d hoped for,” McCrackin said. “We thought to ourselves, ‘This is exactly why we came here.’ All the stress, all the worries and concerns, the consultations — it was all worth it.”

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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