Surgery fulfills young man’s wish
Friday, December 26, 2003 Posted: 2:03 PM EST (1903 GMT)
Twenty-eight years ago, Jake Perez was born three months early. Despite his premature arrival, he left the hospital healthy and with no signs of brain damage. But before his first birthday, his mother noticed something was not right. “It was hard for him to get up the crib, and of course my family, my brothers and sisters, told me, ‘Something is wrong with Jacob,’ ” Maria Perez said.
Her son had a minor case of cerebral palsy, a group of disorders caused by brain damage that affect a person’s ability to move and to maintain balance and posture. “I remember when I was a child walking toward a mirror and realizing I am walking differently than everyone else around me,” Perez said. Stiffness was his main problem. He had excellent motor coordination and minor deformity in his legs.
Perez grew into a handsome, smart young man — who is now a writer at CNN Headline News — but his desire to walk normally did not lessen. Perez got his wish thanks to a spinal cord operation that is usually performed on children between the ages of 2 and 6.
Dr. T.S. Park has performed the procedure � called selective dorsal rhizotomy � on more than 1,000 children, but he is one of the few doctors to also perform the surgery on adults.
Perez is one of a small number of adults who can have this surgery — patients must have only a mild case of cerebral palsy, little or no deformities and be able to walk independently. His surgery was performed at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
During the procedure, a drill is used to remove a piece of vertebra in the lower back that covers the spinal cord. The nerves then are examined under a microscope and tested. When the right nerves are cut, some of the symptoms of the cerebral palsy are alleviated. “We calm down the spinal cord,” Dr. Park said. “We kind of balance out the input and output of the spinal cord activities.” While the risks of the surgery include weakness, paralysis or loss of bowel and bladder function, Dr. Park was optimistic.
“Jake will be able to walk normally after the surgery,” he said. “The stiffness will be gone permanently.” Indeed, one month after the surgery, and after intensive physical therapy, Perez is feeling great. “I feel very mobile and free,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been let go. It’s a good feeling. It’s awesome.”
Source: CNN.com

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