Life changing treatment needed for Caitlin

Caitlin McMurtry is an eight year old with scoliosis. Her family are working to raise funds for a treatment option in Los Angeles.
Waiuku-born Caitlin McMurtry is just eight years old, and on her way to having life changing treatment which could lead to a pain-free life.
In 2017, Caitlin’s mum Michelle noticed a hump in her back. After a trip to the GP and a number of x-rays, it was revealed Caitlin has scoliosis. “Her X-rays showed a clear S-shaped curve that measured 45 and 42 degrees. She was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon,” Michelle said.
Since then, the family, Ben and Michelle, and their children, Caitlin, and younger brothers Austen and Noah have attended months of constant surgeon and doctor appointments.
Caitlin’s curve is growing rapidly, in May her x-rays measure at 55 and 50 degrees.
The only option for Caitlin in New Zealand is growing rods, which are screwed into her spine. This will later lead to a  spinal fusion, which can often lead to chronic life long pain.
However, there are options for a normal, pain-free life for Caitlin, through a scoliosis care clinic in Los Angeles, USA. They use extensive physical treatment to lengthen the spinal cord.
“Other families from New Zealand have travelled over to the clinic, and are achieving positive results,” said  Michelle.
“Caitlin’s condition has 100 per cent chance of progressing rapidly due to her age and she is wearing a back brace more than 20 hours a day to try and hold the curve while we work towards this treatment plan,” she said.  “It’s so painful for her both physically and emotionally, but we’re so very proud at how well she is adjusting to the brace and coping with the emotional toll of this disease.”
The family’s research has also led them to a surgeon in Germany who performs the newest technique available, Vertebral Body Tethering (VBT), which uses a flexible band attached to the spine to pull it straight as she continues to grow.
“If Caitlin does need surgery this would be our preference as this surgeon is very experienced in this technique,” Michelle said. “Leaving her spine with flexibility means she is able to then lead a normal life as is possible and it means her risks of complications and pain are much less.” The treatment does come with a hefty price tag, but the family are doing everything possible to raise the funds themselves and make a way for Caitlin to live out her life to full potential.
“We’d love our story to spread awareness of this horrible disease and the pain so many have to suffer through each day,” Michelle said. “But also to spread the word and ask those who would like to please think about fundraising on our behalf. Asking for donations doesn’t feel right to us, but we’d love our family and friends and even strangers who feel a connection to our story to come up with fundraising events on our behalf to raise money to donate. We’d love to think of everyone having a good time while they raise money,” Michelle said.
People have already come on board to help support the family, and offer ideas. Michelle has  been approached by parents and families asking for help with their own experiences of scoliosis.
“Initial funds raised would be for the scoliosis care clinics and then for VBT surgery if needed. If any surplus was made, the McMurtry family would like to begin  a foundation to raise funds for other kiwi families who can’t afford the treatment.
If anyone has contacts or ideas on helping with something like this they can email Ben and Michelle  on fundraisingforcaitlin@gmail.com

If you would like offer a donation towards Caitlin’s Scoliosis journey, please visit their givealittle page at: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/caitlins-scoliosis-journey/fundraisers

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a medical condition in which a person’s spine has a sideways curve. The curve is usually “S”- or “C”-shaped. In some, the degree of curve is stable, while in others, it increases over time. Mild scoliosis does not typically cause problems, while severe cases can interfere with breathing. Typically, no pain is present.
The cause of most cases is unknown, but is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors include other affected family members. It can also occur due to another condition such as muscles spasms, cerebral palsy, Marfan syndrome, and tumors such as neurofibromatosis. Diagnosis is confirmed with X-rays. Scoliosis is typically classified as either structural in which the curve is fixed, or functional in which the underlying spine is normal. Treatment depends on the degree of curve, location, and cause. Treatments may include bracing or surgery. The brace must be fitted to the person and used daily until growing stops. Scoliosis occurs in about 3 per cent of people.

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