By Erica Gadbois
Micah Jump is on the move. The 15-year-old sophomore tears up the links on his high school’s golf team, plays in the marching band and sings in the show choir. He’s also part of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America group, an active student council participant and an avid 4-H member. So, you might be surprised to know that less than a year ago, Micah underwent comprehensive spinal surgery — vertebral column resection (VCR) for severe scoliosis, to be exact.
It was the middle of 2017 when Micah “started showing signs of something out-of-the-ordinary going on [with his back],” says his dad, Jason Jump. Because Micah was born with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a genetic disorder that causes differences in skin color and benign tumor growth on nerves throughout the body, Jason and Micah’s mom, Stephanie Jump, were always on the lookout for symptoms of scoliosis — NF1 increases the risk of developing the spine-curving condition. But Micah’s progression from a typical kid to one with some very apparent issues was rapid. “It only took a few months to go from, ‘this is curious; we need to watch this’ to ‘wow, we need to have him checked out,’” Jason recalls.
In August, the Jumps, who live in Kansas, took Micah to see his regular doctor in Wichita. He was officially diagnosed with scoliosis, and “immediately ceased all physical activity outside of … everyday life” based on doctor’s orders, explains Jason. For Micah, who played golf and did skills and weight training almost daily, this was perhaps the most difficult part of his diagnosis. “[Prior to this, his scoliosis] did not impact him at all. He was extremely disappointed to have to give up golf and miss his freshman season. His goal was to be the first male golfer [in his high school’s] history to qualify for the state golf tournament all four years,” his dad says.
Micah was also told he’d need surgery, and his doctor recommended just two locations for it to be done — a facility in New York City or the Orthopedics & Scoliosis Center at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. “We thought, ‘well, since winter is just around the corner, we will start with [evaluating in] San Diego,’” Jason jokes. Humor and the beckon of near-perfect Southern California weather aside, the Jumps knew they were in the right place after meeting with Micah’s prospective surgeon, Peter Newton, M.D., chief of the Rady Children’s Division of Orthopedics & Scoliosis and clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Once we visited with Dr. Newton, we never even chose to visit the doctor in New York City,” says Jason.
To potentially offset some of the intensity of VCR, Micah started traction therapy, which stretches the spine to straighten and remove pressure, and his surgery was scheduled for December. When surgery day arrived, Micah and Dr. Newton were both in for the long haul — VCR is a time-consuming, precise procedure involving the removal of at least one of a patient’s vertebrae, and then using a bone graft to replace the missing vertebrae and fuse and stabilize the spine. Micah’s took 10.5 hours. “[That day]was nerve-wracking, to say the least, but we had a nurse providing us with up-to-date information … and were given plenty of information prior to surgery,” Stephanie states. “I will never forget seeing Dr. Newton after Micah’s surgery. I can’t imagine how exhausted he and his team must have been, but he sat with us and made sure that all of our questions and concerns were addressed.”
After that, it was time to heal. “Recovery … was quite painful, as one can imagine … [but] the care … was amazing. The staff was very accommodating and very patient with [Micah],” remembers Jason. “The process was not nearly as long as I anticipated it to be. I think he was in [the intensive care unit] one day longer than what was expected, and I think he might have been in bed maybe one or two days longer than what was ideal before he started the walking process. But once he started, it went very smooth.”
Back on his feet, Micah did two weeks of physical therapy with Rady Children’s, completed his post-operative check-up with Dr. Newton, and headed home to complete his recovery — and to reclaim his golf game. “Micah didn’t realize the extent of the pain he was in [before VCR] until he was well into recovery and beginning to be active again,” Stephanie says. “He told us over and over how much better he feels. The first day back from his six-month checkup, he was out at the golf course bright and early.”
Micah will see Dr. Newton for a one-year and three-year checkup, with any care in between handled at home. No matter how much time passes, however, one thing remains constant — the effects of his surgery on him and his parents are profound. “Dr. Newton, his team and the nurses … [were] everything we could have wished for and more,” expresses Stephanie. “I am still overwhelmed a year later at the care our son received from everyone during his time there. [On our six-month checkup], he actually wanted to see if he could go up to the floor where he spent so much time … to see if the nurses remembered him. It has been amazing to be a part of something that has not only been so huge in the life of our son, but an amazing witness to our community the way God worked in his situation.”
Jason adds, “I can say with absolute certainty that Dr. Newton is one of the finest medical professionals I have ever had experience with in my life. I tell people all the time that he was amazing. The care and concern that he showed for our son still brings tears to my eyes. We will forever be grateful for what he did for Micah.”
Published December 2018