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Dublin: 13°C Wednesday 28 July 2021

'He’s very brave, he was in surgery for 10 hours': Tommy Long finally gets scoliosis operation

Tommy’s mother Michelle said he looks “unrecognisable” since the surgery.

tommy bed new Tommy Source: Michelle Long

TOMMY LONG HAS finally received his long-awaited scoliosis surgery after numerous delays.

Last week Tommy (6) had his sixth surgery, where a rod that was removed from his back in September was replaced.

TheJournal.ie has been following his story since last year. Tommy, who is from Kilkenny, had a vector rod inserted in September 2014, followed by a couple of lengthening sessions.

Issues with the rod developed and he was waiting seven months for these to be fixed. A magnetic rod known as a magec rod was inserted in January 2016. In September, the rod became unhooked and cut through his bone. It was finally replaced last Tuesday.

Tommy’s mother Michelle told us how relieved she was after the surgery.

download (3) Tommy's back

“It all went really well. They removed the vertebrae they needed to and put in one magec rod. They felt the second rod wouldn’t work for him for now.

“His back looks amazing. The consultant spoke to us and he said Tommy was unrecognisable. I can’t wait to see him standing.

“When he came out the difference was unbelievable, even from the front – you can see the difference it has made to his tummy and rib cage, and when he’s lying on his side his back looks really straight.

He hasn’t complained at all. He’s good, he’s sore but he has a really high tolerance of pain at this stage, he’s a very brave boy. He was in surgery for 10 hours.

Tommy’s curve was measured just before the surgery and it was 95 degrees.

Michelle says the worst is hopefully over and the family is now focused on getting Tommy back on his feet.

tommy hospital Tommy

She and her husband have been taking it in turns to stay with Tommy overnight, sleeping on the hospital floor.

“The recovery will take a while, but he’s not at risk anymore. The plan is if the rod works as it should and doesn’t break, he won’t need another surgery for two years.”

The rod can be lengthened without surgery in the meantime, as he gets taller.

Waiting lists 

Scoliosis affects about 1% of children and adolescents in Ireland. The condition can also affect adults. It causes an abnormal curve of the spine or backbone.

With scoliosis, a person’s curvature progresses over time and waiting a long period for surgery often leads to other complications and means the patient can require more serious surgery.

download (4) Michelle and Tommy last month Source: Órla Ryan/TheJournal.ie

As of the end of January, there were over 200 patients under the age of 18 waiting for scoliosis surgery in Ireland, including 190 people at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin (OLCHC) – some of whom have been waiting for over 18 months.

download (5) Source: National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF)

The government has committed to cutting the average waiting time for surgery to four months by the end of 2017.

As of this month, a new orthopaedic theatre at OLCHC is open one day a week, with additional capacity being provided once extra employees are recruited in the coming months.

Read: ‘The damage is done, a piece of his spine will have to be removed’

Read: ‘I see my daughter crying in pain, her body bending over. We can’t wait two years’

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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