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news News Wednesday, April 29, 2020 Wednesday, April 29, 2020 9:49 AM - Wednesday, April 29, 2020 9:49 AM

Meet Connor

Middle school student endures many leg lengthening surgeries

Meet Connor

When Connor was born four weeks early and weighing over 7 pounds, doctors realized something was wrong. In utero he weighed 4 pounds. Connor had a limb length discrepancy; his right leg was 5 inches shorter than the left and doctors had been measuring his shorter leg. Parents Meagan and Andy were left wondering what to do when a doctor at a hospital in St. Louis suggested contacting Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Connor had his first appointment at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis when he was 6 months old, and doctors monitored his progress to see how much his leg would grow. Every six months he would receive a new shoe lift and AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) braces.

When Connor turned 5, Perry Schoenecker, M.D., suggested a few options to his parents for Connor's continuing care. One option was amputating his shorter leg, but Dr. Schoenecker suggested a lengthening process, which would involve multiple surgeries and external fixator spatial frames that Connor would have to wear for months at a time. The family chose the latter, hoping to provide Connor with the best option despite the fact that much of his childhood would require hospital visits. “We are blessed to have Shriners Hospital so close,” said Meagan, a resident of Wentzville, a St. Louis suburb. “The local Shriners would even pay our gas when we had to come to the hospital multiple times per week.”

Dr. Schoenecker performed a hip surgery on Connor in January 2013. After that surgery, Connor began seeing J. Eric Gordon, M.D., for the leg-lengthening process. He had another surgery on his femur and received his first fixator frame, which was surgically attached to his leg from his shin to his hip. After recovering from this lengthening, Connor received another frame that went from his shin to his knee. He also endured an internal lengthening process through the use of an Ellipse nail. Once both legs are even, doctors will perform a fusion surgery that will stop the growth of both legs.

Despite the need to visit the hospital so often, Meagan usually has a difficult time getting Connor to leave. “Connor absolutely loves coming here, they make it so much fun for him that he doesn’t want to go back home,” Meagan said. “They make childhood a part of their treatment.” In fact, Connor joined the Patient Ambassadors and has already given multiple speeches to the public and his peers about his care at the hospital. Each year he and his siblings give back by holding a toy drive at Christmas. His dad even became a Shriner, continuing the legacy of giving back to the wonderful organization that helped their family so much.