Father Finds Doctor to Help Son Walk Again

"It's more likely he's going to have something called schwannomatosis, and segmental schwannomatosis because it's isolated to a certain area of the body," Belzberg said.

In Rod's case, Belzberg said, a random mutation caused the tumors.

"Schwannomatosis, if that's what he has, is quite rare," Belzberg said. "It's somewhere on the order of 1 in 40,000 people. He will probably grow these tumors in this segment of his body for the rest of his life."

Belzberg said Rod's first tumor had pressed so long on his spine that pieces of his vertebrae eroded away.

Tumor Cause Unbearable Pain, Possible Damage

"It was horrid," Belzberg said. "When he presented, he was just in agony and very medicated for pain and even with very high doses of narcotics he was just in horrible pain."

During the first operation, another surgeon had to place titanium rods along Rod's spine to support the areas eroded by the tumor. A second surgery removed most of the tumor in his abdomen that pushed on Rod's organs.

But some damage had been done to Rod's legs during the time he could not walk. His muscles contracted, and his spine had curved. Ball said the family tried physical therapy to straighten out Rod's legs, but after months the family and doctors could see it was not working.

Belzberg said, "To put him in a better position, it was easier to break his bones surgically and to realign things."

Rod will be able to walk again after he heals, Belzberg said.

Rod Ball, 11, practices walking with support.

The boy's father said, "He's in braces right now … you can wear shoes in them and it allows him to stand up. The prognosis is he will be walking, there's no doubt about it. How well, we don't know."

Rod said, "I've learned to cope with the pain. I've learned that sometimes when you have pain, you just have to work through."

The family has made arrangements for him to fly back to Baltimore four times a year for tests. Rod will likely have to have four MRIs a year for the rest of his life to makes sure his tumors aren't growing out of control.

Researchers are looking for medications to treat schwannomas, Belzberg said, but watchful waiting and surgery are the only treatments.

Boy Has Chance to Walk Again

"I have to say I feel a lot better after the surgery," said Rod, who said it still hurts sometimes. "But I'm a lot more mobile, and I've been able to do some things that I wanted to."

For now, Rod said, he's happy to just invite friends over again, to go to school or to play with his two sisters, ages 13 and 8.

"They like to run around and play with my dog, chase her and let my dog chase us," he said.

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