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news News Wednesday, August 5, 2020 Wednesday, August 5, 2020 12:53 PM - Wednesday, August 5, 2020 12:53 PM

With great bracing comes great responsibility

Patient’s mom incorporates his scoliosis braces in elaborate photoshoots, depicting her son as his favorite superheroes

With great bracing comes great responsibility

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Super-Liam!

A curve was initially discovered in Liam’s spine when he was 6 months old, though his physician at the time concluded that it was nothing to worry about, and no further action was taken. Later on, 2-year-old Liam underwent another round of X-rays, which revealed the undeniable curve had increased to 30 degrees. He was officially diagnosed with early onset scoliosis, which his physicians believe to be linked to a condition Liam was born with called congenital diaphragmatic hernia.   

After Liam was diagnosed with scoliosis, his family was initially referred to a specialist in the Seattle area where they live. At their consultation, the physician explained that they would like to continue to monitor Liam, but wanted to wait until the curve progressed to 35 degrees before beginning any sort of treatment, which would eventually necessitate surgery. Liam’s mom, Sarah, felt troubled by the advised approach to wait until the condition worsened.

“It was all very new to us at the time. We went home feeling like we were just waiting for the inevitable [surgery],” said Sarah. “It seemed unsettling not to try and act on it now.”

A close friend recommended that she seek a second opinion from Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland. At the Portland Shriners Hospital, Liam was seen by Joseph I. Krajbich, M.D., who recommended that they begin immediate treatment using the Mehta-Cotrel casting method. This method utilizes custom molds of the infant or young child, usually through a series of corrective casts, to help prevent the progression of a spinal curve. Often this form of treatment can prolong the need for surgery, or in some cases eliminate it. Initially, Liam’s treatment began with the serial casting treatments at eight-week intervals, and after a year he progressed to bracing.

“The casting treatments were a difficult pill to swallow as a parent. You think about the things your child will be missing out on because of the cast,” said Sarah. “You think about little things like cast-free hugs and cuddles that you will no longer be able to feel, which is tough for any parent. Ultimately, the big picture becomes the most important thing, and knowing you are doing everything possible to give your child the best possible outcome overpowers the small things you may miss.” 

Liam and Sarah, who is a professional photographer, have learned to embrace Liam’s scoliosis treatment by using his braces to create fantastical photos of Liam depicted as his favorite superheroes. As part of his treatment plan, Liam is typically fitted for a new brace every nine to 12 months, and every time he gets a new brace, the transformation begins. Using a variety of outdoor vinyl materials to design the costumes, Sarah creates the ensemble needed for Liam to save the world. 

“Liam loves the photoshoots. It is the highlight of our week. We have turned them into adventures each time. It is always an absolute blast for him,” said Sarah. “Liam has a long road ahead of him. I'm trying to teach him that through hard times come good moments – that if you look hard enough at the hard road in front of you, you will see a positive path. My hope is that when he looks back at this time in his life, it will make him smile.” 

Sarah has coordinated and staged photoshoots of Liam as Spider-Man, Batman, Buzz Lightyear, Captain America, Thor, Superman, Hiccup, and even Russel Wilson – who Liam got to meet and pose with! His most recent photoshoot shows Liam channeling the force as the famous Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi.

When he’s not wielding his hammer to summon lightning, defending the citizens of Gotham City or taming dragons, you can often find Liam riding bikes and playing his favorite sport, baseball!

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