Be prepared to get splashed if you spend time with Owen Earl. According to his parents, the 8-year-old from Cambridge, Minnesota is happiest when he’s in the water.

Swimming wasn’t always joyful or comfortable for Owen due to scoliosis, a curvature of his spine, that was diagnosed when he was 1 year old.

“We brought him to the emergency room because he was coughing and had a high fever,” Owen’s dad, Mike, recalls. “They took an x-ray of his lungs and said he had pneumonia and then asked what we were doing about the curve in his back. This was a total surprise to us,” Mike says.

The initial hospital referred the Earl family to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. “We just lucked out and got to come to the best children’s hospital for Owen’s condition,” Mike marvels.

A team of Gillette specialists confirmed the scoliosis diagnosis and worked with the Earls to craft a customized treatment plan for Owen. “They put Owen in casts at first,” Mike recalls. “Next came bracing.” The brace was not easy for Owen because it interfered with his swimming.

“We had to get him in and out of the brace when he went in the pool,” Mike says. “When he came out of the water we had to make sure his skin was totally dry or else he could get a rash from the brace. Plus, once he entered kindergarten we thought it would be best to get Owen out of the brace.”

Gillette orthopedic surgeon, Tenner Guillaume, MD, suggested Owen undergo surgery using magnetically driven growing rods known as MAGEC rods.  In March 2016, Guillaume planted two rods in Owen’s back to straighten his spine. Following the surgery, the system uses magnets to lengthen the rods as Owen grows. The magnets allow Owen to avoid one of the major drawbacks of a traditional rod system—having surgery every three to six months to adjust the implanted rods.

“We love Gillette! Dr. Guillaume has great relationship with Owen,” Mike says. “We feel lucky every time we come here.”

Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare is internationally recognized for treating pediatric spine conditions, complex congenital abnormalities, and high-grade spondylolisthesis

Gillette performs 80% of spinal fusion procedures in Minnesota and 65% of spine fusions to correct scoliosis. We also perform 63% of neurosurgery spinal procedures in the state.

Our providers were the first in the region to treat early-onset scoliosis with magnetically driven growing rods. This technology allows us to deliver a less invasive treatment and eliminates the need for frequent surgeries to straighten the spine.

We actively conduct spine research and are focused on long-term outcomes in patients who have idiopathic scoliosis and on scoliosis associated with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular conditions.

Editor's note: Read more stories like Owen's in our interactive annual report!


“Our overall volume lends us a degree of clinical expertise that isn’t seen in other institutions in the region or the state.”--Tenner Guillaume, MD, spine surgeon at Gillette.


More information and scoliosis support can be found in the Scoliosis Resource Group - Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.

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