The Tees-DeBeyer brothers are no strangers to the Orthopedics Department at BC Children’s Hospital. That’s because they share a common condition – congenital scoliosis, which causes their spines to have severe curvatures.
When the oldest brother was born, it quickly became apparent to his parents, Susan and Dan, and their son’s health care team, that existing treatment options for scoliosis would not provide good long-term outcomes. By 18 months, the toddler’s back was curved more than 90 degrees and his lung capacity was so compromised that he could hardly breathe. He struggled to walk even short distances before becoming winded.
Over the next couple of years, their son’s orthopedic team at BC Children’s searched for alternative treatment options – including a new experimental procedure called vertical expandable prosthetic titanium rib, or VEPTR, that uses expandable rods to straighten the spine.
In 2005, he became the first child in BC to have the VEPTR inserted. After the procedure his parents saw an immediate and remarkable change in their son. He went from a child who had very little energy and was unable to walk more than 100 meters to someone who is able to play and participate in activities. His younger brothers have also been diagnosed with congenital scoliosis, and are following the same treatment plan.
The Tees-DeBeyer brothers undergo regular surgeries every four to six months to expand the rods. They will continue to have the expansions until they stop growing. Susan and Dan are grateful to the orthopedic team at BC Children’s for advocating the use of this radically innovative treatment and for giving their sons the ability to participate in sports and other physical activities like other children – something no one thought possible.