A teenager with disabilities is sitting much more comfortably in his wheelchair. His mother, Abbigale Tun, says Willie is out of pain now that his dramatically curved spine has been surgically corrected.
The operation has been life-changing for the whole family.
“You’ve done a good job, my man,” said a delighted Dr. Jaren Riley, Willie’s pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
The 15-year-old from Frederick was doing well just two weeks after having his severely curved spine straightened.
“He wasn’t able to sit,” Abbigale told Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
Willie and his twin, Wilson, were born 10 weeks early. Willie has seizures, cerebral palsy and other complications. He developed neuromuscular scoliosis, his muscles have been twisting his spine.
“Kind of like a pretzel, to tell you the truth,” said Riley. “His pelvis was literally 100 degrees rotated counter to his spine.”
That made it hard for Willie to breathe, tolerate food and sit.
“When he would sit he would sit on just one really highly pressured area on his hip,” explained Riley.
“Lot of pain,” said Abbigale.
And she said things got much worse in the last 18 months.
“We could get about 30 minutes max sitting time from him and he was just done,” she said.
On January 20, 2021, Riley operated on Willie at RMHC.
He fused Willie’s spine, connecting each segment using rods and screws, and then carefully straightened it.
“We got the spine as good as it needed to be. We did it safely and he and the family are happy,” said Riley.
“Night and day,” said Abbigale. “He’s awake more, he’s alert more.”
“Happy, content,” said Dario Tun, Willie’s father. “He’s just a completely different child.”
Willie is still healing from surgery, but Abbigale and Dario say he can now sit comfortably for hours.
“He’s able to go with us now,” said Abbigale.
“It’s life changing for us and him,” said Dario.
For Dr. Riley, it is rewarding, “He is the exact kind of kid that I got into this job for. He is the kid we want to help.”