Martin arrived at Shiners Hospitals for Children — Northern California, in the summer of 2017 with a wheelchair and a diagnosis — osteogenesis imperfecta. Commonly referred to as brittle bone disease, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is a congenital disorder characterized by defective connective tissue and brittle bones that are prone to fracture. Treatment includes surgery to repair broken bones.
Hopeful their son would walk again one day, Martin’s parents wanted him to benefit from the expert pediatric orthopaedic care provided by Shiners Hospitals for Children — Northern California. A friend recommended they reach out to the Northern California hospital in Sacramento.
Martin was 11 years old when he rolled into clinic for his first appointment with pediatric orthopaedic surgeon Holly Leshikar, M.D. He hadn’t walked in three years. “Martin could walk until he was 7 years old. By the time he turned 8, he used a wheelchair,” said his mother. “He was frustrated and felt angry. Dr. Leshikar talked to me in a very positive way, and I felt I was in good hands,” she added.
On August 26, 2017, Dr. Leshikar operated on Martin’s right leg. The goal of the surgery was to straighten the femur and place hardware that will protect Martin from further deformity in the event of fractures. “Before surgery, Martin, his mother and I spoke about goals. We decided surgery was only dedicated if the goal was for Martin to walk again and leave his wheelchair. This, of course, was predicated on the fact that he could build the muscle to have the strength to use his body.
In October Martin began daily physical therapy sessions. In November, his physical therapy increased to twice a day. On November 2, less than three months after surgery, Martin walked with his physical therapist Laura van Houtryve.
“Getting the biggest, most genuine hug from Martin after he walked across the parallel bars in the gym for the first time was the best feeling ever for a pediatric physical therapist,” said Ms. van Houtryve. “This is the reason I work at Shriners Hospitals for Children. The collaboration with doctors like Dr. Leshikar, who work closely with physical therapy to help patients achieve their goals provides tremendous professional satisfaction,” she added.
The collaboration between doctor and physical therapist includes face-to-face conversations in the clinic, email exchanges and Dr. Leshikar’s visits to the gym to observe progress.
“Every step since surgery has been therapy and every step forward will be therapy. I provide the tools, but Laura works with Martin to teach him how to use them,” said Dr. Leshikar.
Dr. Leshikar hopes a second surgery on his left leg will one day enable Martin to walk without a walker. The goal of the surgery is to improve the length discrepancy and the mechanical alignment of Martin’s legs to decrease his risk of fracture and improve the mechanics of walking.
“The left side surgery is even more technically complex, but my hope is his recovery may actually be easier if his strength and independence is improved beforehand,” said Dr. Leshikar.
While progress is measured one step at a time, it is positive.
“It is more than I expected. I just have to thank everyone who works here,” said his mother as she watched Martin ride a bike and take steps with a walker under the watchful eye of his physical therapist.
“This is another Martin. He is happier now,” she added. Thanks to the care he receives at Shiners Hospitals for Children — Northern California, Martin now can imagine playing like other kids his age.
“I want to play soccer with my dad, get on a bike and be able to fall and scrape myself,” he said.