When Tyler Schell, then 2 years old, fell off of his trike and broke his arm, his parents, Chris and Alison Schell, found it unusual. “It wasn’t a major fall, so I was surprised by the break,” says Chris. Then, just one year later, Tyler broke both of his arms within a week. “At that point we knew something was very wrong,” Chris explains.
Tyler was referred to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and Dr. Ann Van Heest, a physician who specializes in upper extremities. The family also began genetic testing, with startling results: Tyler had osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a rare bone disorder that occurs in less than 0.01% of the population. In fact, Chris says that only 150 people in the family’s native Australia have the condition.
Today, Tyler sees 10 different physicians at Gillette, depending on the area of his body that needs care. He also receives experimental treatments that have helped reduce his fracture rate. In addition to his Gillette team, Tyler sees one of the world’s top OI specialists in Sydney, Australia.
Although Tyler has broken more than 20 bones in his young life, he remains a happy, charming and outgoing little boy. “Tyler can win people over in a very positive way,” says Chris with a smile.
The Schells acknowledge the helplessness and unpredictability that come with Tyler’s condition. “Whether tripping on the rug or falling on the playground — we never know when the next break will be,” Chris says. But they’ve made sure he has the opportunity to be like any other kid. “Tyler knows he’s a kid who has OI — not the other way around.”