“Sommer suffered for two years before a doctor discovered the source”
Sommer started experiencing severe leg pain when she was eight years old. At first, her symptoms were disregarded as growing pains. She suffered for two years until finally getting a referral to see a specialist. At age 10, Sommer was diagnosed with a birth defect called vertebral slippage. It occurs when one vertebra in the spine slides forward or backward upon its neighbor eventually causing pain and muscle weakness. This condition is fairly difficult to diagnose due to the complexity of the spine and the wide range of potential problems associated with it. After reviewing Sommer’s spinal x-rays, her doctor determined that she had 95 percent slips. On the grading scale from I to IV, that put Sommer’s condition at a grade IV, meaning her persistent and aching slips would require surgery.
Sommer underwent a spinal decompression and fusion surgery. The goals of the procedures were to relieve the pain associated with her irritated nerves, stabilize her spine where the vertebra had slipped out of place, and to increase her ability to function. The decompressive procedure involved removing the part of Sommer’s bone that was pressing on her nerves. Her doctors took out one disc and one vertebra while shaving down two other vertebrae in the process. The second procedure, called spinal fusion, was performed to provide stability. In a fusion, a piece of bone is transplanted to the back of the spine. As the bone heals, it fuses with the spine, creating a solid mass of bone that keeps the spine from moving. Instruments including four rods and screws were used to hold Sommer’s vertebra firm as the fusion heals, realigning her spine.
Sommer spent over two weeks in the hospital recovering from surgery and undergoing inpatient rehabilitation. As she healed, Sommer began to engage with other patients and make friends. During her stay, she visited the gift shop to purchase a present for a fellow patient in hopes of cheering them up. Since being discharged from the hospital, Sommer attends outpatient physical therapy and wears braces on her legs as she continues to heal. Her fighting spirit and boundless compassion are what set Sommer apart as a Hero.
It is with great pleasure that we honor Sommer by recognizing her as Kid’s Wish Network’s along with Kosair Children’s Hospital’s Hero of the Month. Congratulations, Sommer!