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Second opinion care helps Brighton teen overcome difficult scoliosis journey

Following an x-ray, Cheyenne's mom spotted a curve in her spine, resulting in a scoliosis diagnosis.

September 13, 2023
Reviewing an x-ray of a scoliosis patient

In 2019, 11-year-old Cheyenne was diagnosed with pneumonia. During the course of diagnosis and treatment, an X-ray was taken of her lungs and her mom, Kim, noticed a bit of a curve in her spine.

The provider at urgent care thought it was nothing of concern, but Kim had an intuition that something wasn’t quite right. She suspected that Cheyenne might have scoliosis — a condition in which the spine curves in an S or C shape at a degree of 10 or more. So, Kim decided to go for a second opinion.

First, they went to Cheyenne’s primary care provider who recommended eight weeks of physical therapy (PT).

“While she was in PT, I was looking at her with her therapist and I noticed that one of her shoulders was higher than the other,” Kim recalls.

Convinced that PT wasn’t enough for the problem, Kim sought another opinion.

“I took her to [a specialist] who did an X-ray and they found she had a 56-degree curve. Anything over 42, they told me they recommend surgery,” Kim says. “At this point, it was 11 months after I noticed something. If everyone had been on board with this when I first noticed it, she probably could have been able to wear a brace because she was still growing, but by then it had progressed to the point of needing surgery. The doctor said if we didn’t have the surgery, she’d be in a wheelchair by the time she was 16. She was about to turn 12.”

Cheyenne has a love for horses and the idea that she might end up in a wheelchair and unable to pursue a career caring for the animals was devasting. The family decided to go through with surgery in July 2019.

Unfortunately, Cheyenne’s recovery from surgery was difficult and when she had a check-up with the surgeon in late 2020 (pushed back by the pandemic), they found that there had been a complication with the placement of the hardware used during surgery. Even still, the provider didn’t think there would be a benefit to another surgery. Again, recognizing the importance of seeking a second opinion, Kim asked Cheyenne’s primary care doctor for a referral to a different specialist — this time to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children’s pediatric spine surgeon Dr. Jaren Riley. Dr. Riley has a unique focus on treating scoliosis in adolescents and is skilled in providing second opinions as well as revision surgical care.

“We saw Dr. Riley when Cheyenne was 13, going on 14. He told us that without further intervention at this point, she would still be in a wheelchair by age 16,” Kim says. “He was very straightforward about the difficulty of the situation and the pros and cons. Chy, her dad and I talked about it for five days but ultimately felt like Dr. Riley was the right provider for the job.”

Dr. Riley created a plan to revise the initial surgery, repairing the hardware issues and placing new hardware. Several lengthy procedures followed, but this time, recovery went even better than expected.

“He told us, you’re going to be here for five days, but on day three not only was she walking, but she also was asking when she could go home,” Kim says.

Now with the proper treatment, Cheyenne went from measuring at 4’11" to just under 5’4" when she left the hospital. Additionally, after the first surgery she was having difficulty breathing, but the revision straightened everything up, providing more room for her organs and allowing her to breathe more freely again. Kim proudly shares that Cheyenne was back at school only 11 days after surgery and recently graduated eighth grade on the honor roll.

“We’re coming up on a year after surgery and she’s doing awesome,” Kim says. “She wants to do everything, and it is just so great that she isn’t in pain anymore.”

The family is looking forward to a checkup with Dr. Riley in the fall at which they hope Cheyenne will be given the clearance to ride horses once again.

“Getting a second opinion was the best thing I could have done. Always get a second opinion; if it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t sound right, ask questions and keep asking,” Kim says.

To learn more about scoliosis treatment at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, or to learn more about getting a second opinion, visit us online or call (303) 861-2663.

September 13, 2023
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at PSL

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