Scoliosis won’t interrupt this future farmer’s dream

My 11-year-old son Blake loves anything to do with farming. There’s lots of farmland and animals—chickens, bunnies and cows—around here. He loves to sit and watch the farmers working in the fields whenever he can.

Blake has taught me and my husband so much about being patient, slowing down and enjoying life. He’s come a long way in these last several years.

As an infant, Blake struggled with some feeding issues, as well as some concerns with his strength.  He had two different types of feeding tubes and physical delays, as a result of low muscle tone. As he grew, the challenges did not fade away. By the time he turned 2, the low muscle tone had led to neuromuscular scoliosis, a diagnosis I knew little about at that time in my life, but quickly learned more about. Neuromuscular scoliosis is an irregular curvature of the spine, due to nerves and muscles being unable to maintain the proper curvature of the spine. As Blake became mobile, he needed to use a wheelchair to get around. But what did all of this mean for his future? We were very concerned with what was to come in the years ahead for our little boy.

Over time and with the help of physical therapy, his strength and balance improved and he graduated to one walker to another, ultimately allowing him to stand more upright. Now, following years of hard work and his own dedication to becoming stronger, Blake is walking with a single arm crutch!

My goal is to eventually walk without any help,” says Blake. “I’m pretty positive about myself! I’ve already taken a few steps at home without my crutch. I know there will be more of those steps in my future!

Over the years, we were open to trying anything to help Blake better adjust and grow stronger as he got older. In 2007, we tried back braces to help correct his scoliosis, unfortunately, they did not make any difference. However, that was not the end of the line. Thanks to the forward-thinking of Doug Armstrong, MD, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, Penn State Children’s Hospital, he recommended a surgical solution to Blake’s curving spine. Dr. Armstrong explained that by surgically placing metal rods on Blake’s spine, it could help decrease the curve from the scoliosis. Better yet, there was a new type of rod on the market precisely for growing children—the new MAGEC® Rod. In the past, children had to have multiple surgeries over time to lengthen the rods. Now, the MAGEC Rod can be lengthened using magnets, in an outpatient office.

I’ll admit, I was nervous sending my child in for spine surgery and with a new procedure, but, Dr. Armstrong made it easier. He makes all of us feel so comfortable and takes the time to make sure all of our questions are answered. Plus, he always takes a moment to thank us for trusting him with the privilege to care for our son! I’ve never had a doctor do that, and it means so much!

And, Blake? Through it all, Blake is always positive and upbeat. He loves to make others laugh and smile. Blake works really hard to achieve what other kids his age are doing. “I just want to do all the stuff like all the other kids do because I’m equal to everybody else and I know I can do what everybody else does,” says Blake.

As his mom, it’s the moments when he is able to be a kid like any other kid his age! One moment that stands out to me is when Blake was finally able to ride the big school bus with his friends for the first time. For the first couple of years of school, Blake traveled to school in a wheelchair-accessible van, of course, because he couldn’t get on and off the bus with his wheelchair or walkers. With the milestone of graduating to his single arm crutch, now he’s able to ride the bus with his friends and enjoy that time.

We are all thankful for everything he can do and for every day he’s able to do something new. As for Blake, the bus ride was just another thing that he should be able to do and now he’s on to his next goals—enjoying sports and becoming a farmer!

I love tractors and animals and caring for the animals. Right now I have a cow and some chickens. On my farm, I will have about 20 tractors and lots of cows,” says Blake. “My dream is to have a big farm, and I never give up on my dreams!

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