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How Joshua Surprised Dr. Guillaume and Almost Made Him Cry

June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month and it’s a good time to catch up with several Gillette Children’s patients diagnosed with scoliosis. These patients are grateful for the comprehensive care and scoliosis treatment options available at Gillette.

Joshua Reis is a longtime Gillette patient and his story about his special relationship with Gillette spine surgeon, Tenner Guillaume, MD, was originally posted in May 2018.

Joshua Reis reviews his x-ray with Dr. Guillaume

Today, Joshua reports he’s staying happy and active despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. He turns 14 in August and looks forward to a summer filled with biking, playing with his siblings and the possibility of doing water sports.

His mother, Julie Reis, says Joshua has a new interest in construction and is helping his family remodel a home. “We call him the Project Manager,” Julie exclaims. “Joshua is very organized and keeps everyone on task. He knows what tools are needed for each project and is a real asset.”

Joshua and his siblings recently remodeled and expanded a tree house in the family’s backyard. “We used pallet boards to make a new section,” Joshua explains. “We painted the treehouse and are having fun playing in it.”

Joshua enters 8th grade next fall and will continue to play for his school’s adaptive sports soccer team. “We took third in the state last year,” he proudly shares.

Joshua and his mother agree the expert scoliosis and spine care at Gillette has made a big difference. “The entire team at Gillette is excellent,” Julie says. “We feel so fortunate to be a Gillette family and we continue to have an amazing relationship with Dr. Guillaume.”

Joshua Reis wanted to surprise his Gillette Children's orthopedic surgeon, Tenner Guillaume, MD.

The surprise had to be big.

The 11 year old and his parents, Julie and Bob, hatched a plan to present Guillaume with an unusual and highly personal thank you gift.

“We’re so grateful to Dr. Guillaume and many other Gillette providers for the excellent care,” Julie says. “We want to express our gratitude to Dr. Guillaume and we came up with what we thought was a unique way to show our thanks. “

March 2018 was not easy for the Reis family. Joshua had three significant spine surgeries at Gillette in 15 days. He spent a total of 23 days at Gillette recovering. The middle surgery is what Julie and Bob, call “The Big One.”

“For the second surgery, Joshua was on the operating table for 10 hours,” Bob recalls. “We knew he was in good hands with Dr. Guillaume, Dr. Peter Kim and Dr. Joseph Perra. They are exceptional surgeons and we love the collaboration among these doctors.”

This was not the first time the Reis family put their trust in Gillette.  Joshua became a Gillette patient on December 3, 2013—just three days after he came home to the U.S. with his new parents—Bob and Julie Reis.

From Ukraine to Minnesota to Make a Dream Come True

Joshua spent the first five years of his life living in an orphanage and two more years at a school for children with disabilities in Ukraine. He was born with congenital scoliosis, which causes abnormal rotation and side-to-side curvature of the spine. He also has diminished lung capacity caused by restrictive lung disease and thoracic insufficiency syndrome—conditions both related to scoliosis.

Julie and Bob marvel at how they found Joshua, became his parents and at how grateful they are to bring their son home to an area with the comprehensive care offered at Gillette. They are thankful for the treatment he did receive in Ukraine but knew he needed more specialized care that Gillette is able to provide.

In August 2014, Joshua was one of the first Gillette patients to receive MAGEC ® rod implantation surgery. The magnetically driven growing rods are implanted in the spine and act as internal braces to keep the spine from curving. The rods can be expanded without additional surgery to allow for normal skeletal growth. Dr. Guillaume is a national leader and expert in MAGEC rod surgery.

Julie and Bob are amazed at how far Joshua has come since they first met Guillaume and credit the care he’s received at Gillette. “Dr. Guillaume knew one of Joshua’s dreams was to ride a bike,” Bob says. “He worked with us to make that dream come true. Now Joshua is riding bikes with his siblings. That’s one of the reasons why we’re so grateful and want to show our thanks.

After the intense round of surgeries and recovery in March the Reis family figured it was time to celebrate. That’s where the surprise comes in.

Julie, Bob and Joshua created cards with special messages for Joshua’s two orthopedic surgeons and his neurosurgeon. The cards also include a handwritten, heartfelt message from Joshua.

“We want these doctors to know what an impact they’ve made on our family,” Bob says. “They worked hard to gain the knowledge they needed to become wonderful doctors. They often sacrifice time with their own families to take care of their patients. We want to recognize that and thank them.”

A Part of Joshua, A Symbol of Healing

Because of their long and strong history with Guillaume, the Reis family had something extra special to give him.

“Joshua told us he wanted to give one of his MAGEC rods to Dr. Guillaume,” Julie says. “He was so excited at the idea of each of them having one of the rods.”

“When you think about it—it’s like an athlete hitting a game-winning homerun and then giving their special bat to someone,” Julie adds. “We really feel like this rod helped Joshua to reach his dreams and his potential.  He wouldn’t have this rod and be the kid he is today if it were not for the work of Dr. Guillaume.”

Joshua had great success with reaching his growth limit with the MAGEC rods. Dr. Guillaume installed a permanent, fixed rod and a spinal fusion. Surgery to remove the MAGEC rods was March 15, 2018 and surgery for installing the rod, neurosurgery and partial spinal fusion was March 23. Joshua had his spinal fusion completed on March 30.

 “So Joshua will have one of the rods and Dr. Guillaume will have the other rod,” Bob says. “It’s something that’s symbolic of the journey Joshua and Dr. Guillaume have taken together.”

The Reis family was excited to surprise Guillaume during a recent post-operative appointment.  An anxious Joshua first presented the special card to Guillaume and Bob read the message aloud prompting tears from nurses Tiffany and Allison—two members of Guillaume’s team who were in the clinic room.

Next, it was the moment Joshua had been waiting for—the presentation of the plaque and his MAGEC rod. Guillaume carefully reached into the gift bag and took out the packaged wrapped in blue tissue paper.

“Can I open it now?” Guillaume asked.

“YES!” exclaimed Joshua.

The instant he saw the plaque Guillaume immediately recognized how special and personal this gift was.  The inscription on the plaque says: 

Thank you for the exemplary research, surgeries, wisdom and collaboration with your colleagues that you provided to ensure Joshua received the best medical care possible. We are forever grateful.

Your friends, Joshua Reis and family.

Magec Rod implanted August 26th 2014.


“Wow,” was all Guillaume could initially manage to say.

As he held back his tears Guillaume said, “Joshua, I never could have done this without the trust and faith of you and your parents. You’re a remarkable young man. Thank you for letting me take care of you.”