When looking at a person’s back you’ll see that their spine naturally runs straight down the middle, although some may curve to the side.
This occurs because of a condition known as scoliosis and, according to WebMD, doctors in as many as 80 percent of cases don’t find the exact reason this occurs.
For 9-year-old Tyler Dempsey of Burleson, that was the case — at first.
His mom, Candice Dempsey, said he was referred to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas to correct his spine.
“Tyler had his first spinal procedure at 2 and had a series of spinal procedures, wearing a Mehta cast from age 2 to age 6,” she said. “He then wore a scoliosis brace until they scheduled his spine surgery with rods.”
Doctors had decided that Tyler was a good candidate for growing rods, which allow for continued controlled growth of the spine.
But when doctors performed an MRI they subsequently found an osteoid osteoma, which is a benign primary bone tumor.
“We finally knew that this is what was causing him to have scoliosis,” Candice Dempsey said. “Scottish Rite discovered that Tyler had a tumor inside of his spinal cord.”
Although these types tumors are usually relatively small, it is rare to find them in children younger than 5.
At first the patient’s posture is affected. With time structural changes may develop that cause an abnormal curvature of the spine to the left or right side.
Candice Dempsey said her son had spinal cord surgery to get a biopsy of the tumor, followed by six weeks of radiation.
“We’re actually glad that they didn’t discover the tumor until he was a bit older,” she said. “If they had found it when he was 2, there is a higher risk for complications from radiation.”
Tyler said what he remembers most about all of his hospital visits was how the doctors and staff treated him.
“Everyone who took care of me was so nice,” he said. “The activities that Scottish Rite does and all the volunteers that come to visit to make kids feel better.”
Once the radiation was complete, the family moved in to Scottish Rite over the summer for halo gravity traction.
“We shut our electricity off and moved to Scottish Rite,” Candice Dempsey said. “If there is ever a hospital you have to stay, this place is the best.”
Halo gravity traction is the gentle pulling of the soft tissue to help straighten the spine, used to reduce the degree of curvature in the spines of children with severe idiopathic or congenital scoliosis.
“During halo traction Tyler challenged himself by meeting the weight requirement of the traction — half his body weight — and often stayed in traction longer than required,” Candice Dempsey said. “His spirits were too high for mom to keep up. He ran the halls at Scottish Rite — going to therapeutic rec every morning, going to every activity and event Scottish Rite had that day.”
Tyler had his final spinal surgery with rods after the halo traction.
“He no longer has scoliosis,” Candice Dempsey said. “He is very active, playing baseball since he was 3. He loves school and does very well, mastering the STAAR test in math, even after missing so much of the third grade.”
Ahead of the curve
In October, Tyler visited Scottish Rite to visit with and thank the nurses and caretakers who got to know him while he was an inpatient.
On Dec. 10, Tyler will participate in the BMW Dallas Marathon — which benefits the Scottish Rite — as a patient champion.
“This year marks the 20th anniversary of our partnership with Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children,” said Paul Lambert, president of the BMW Dallas Marathon. “During our time together, we’ve been able to raise $3.9 million for the hospital. Our race provides participants a reason to run that is bigger than themselves and an opportunity to support great kids from all walks of life that are in need of orthopedic care.”
In 2007, several Scottish Rite patients offered to help represent the many bright faces treated at the hospital by becoming a patient champion.
In his role as a patient champion, Dempsey will raise funds on behalf of a patient.
“As a patient champion, Tyler will serve as an ambassador of the hospital to help race participants, partners and spectators see how the support of the Dallas Marathon helps Scottish Rite Hospital impact the lives of thousands of children each year,” BMW Dallas Marathon spokeswoman Rebecca Reap said. “Personally, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children has been treating Tyler, an avid Texas Rangers fan, for scoliosis treatment since he was 2 years old.”
Tyler said giving back is important to him.
“It can help a lot of kids live a better life,” he said. “I feel compassion for kids who are still in the hospital and can’t be home with their families.”
To register for the marathon, visit bmwdallasmarathon.com.
“Since our partnership began in 1997, the support of the BMW Dallas Marathon and their board of directors has been paramount,” said Bob Walker, president and CEO of Scottish Rite Hospital. “It’s because of the support of organizations like the Dallas Marathon that patients like Tyler and our other patient champions are able to continue to be joyous, active children.”