CEDAR LAKE, Ind. — Landon Phillips was patient zero.

After he went to see a doctor for his spine deformity, the physician asked if any of his siblings had similar symptoms. It turns out two of them did.

They subsequently underwent surgery and are doing well. Thanks to Landon.

Actually, their mom, Holly, credits an enterprising doctor who looked beyond the patient in front of her.

“If it wasn’t for her, who knows where we would be?” Holly Phillips said.

It started four years ago when Landon, now 8, had a speech delay. He had an MRI to see if he had lesions on the brain. Doctors discovered he had a Chiari malformation, a condition where a person’s skull is too small, causing the brain to squeeze out into the spinal canal. He was referred to a neurosurgeon at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Dr. Jodi Smith.

Smith asked Phillips if any of her other three kids were exhibiting symptoms like Landon. Well, yes, she said. Her daughter, Kaylie, grew up with motor delays, like trouble walking, and bladder control issues. Her doctors, however, told her parents she’d grow out of it.

“I bet you Kaylie has a tethered spinal cord,” Phillips remembers Smith telling her.

Sure enough, that’s what Kaylie had. She had surgery to correct it in 2014.

Three years later, the 13-year-old has learned how to ride a bicycle and runs cross country in school.

“When she was young, she couldn’t walk to save her life,” her mom recalled.

“I’m going to try for basketball this year,” Kaylie said.

She also loves art.

“I like to paint and sculpt, but I usually sketch,” she said the other day at her family’s Cedar Lake home, showing off her recent work: a dragon, a monkey, flowers flanked by a rainbow.

Her younger brother, Hudson, 6, also was unable to control his bladder. It so happened he had a tethered cord, too. Smith fixed it last year, and his problems went away.

“Both Kaylie and Hudson are doing very well,” Smith said.

Phillips said Hudson’s speech also improved after his surgery, a result Smith said she can’t prove is a direct result of the procedure.

Landon is the only one of the three who hasn’t required surgery. Smith continues to monitor his progress.

On the recent day at their home, the kids took turns watching shows on their iPads and rough-housed on the floor, Gizmo the dog staying out of their way.

“Andy’s coming!” 10-year-old Madison yelled out.

A few of the kids collapsed to the floor, their limbs behind their backs, performing a viral video trend inspired by the movie “Toy Story.”

“On the outside, they just look like normal kids,” Phillips said. “You wouldn’t expect they have so much going on underneath.”

Smith said a genetic defect likely caused the deformities. She said it’s not the only time she learned about one family’s member’s spinal condition through another. Once, when a father brought in his baby with symptoms of an untethered cord he discovered, by talking to Smith, that he had one as well.

The Phillipses give back to Riley by raising money and speaking at fundraisers for the children’s hospital.

The family has to go Riley at least once, and sometimes several times, a month for follow-up appointments. But their health is good.

“We were thankful we caught it before Kaylie went into her growth spurt,” Phillips said. “It was kind of a close call.”

Source: The (Northwest Indiana) Times

Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by The (Northwest Indiana) Times.

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