Local teen progressing from spinal surgery

YORKVILLE – Although her recovery has been slow, a Yorkville teen who received potentially dangerous spinal surgery last spring to save her life is doing well, her mother said.

Hailey Ullom, 18, is now able to smile and sit up after receiving the reconstructive surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, said her mother Melissa Uarich-Ullom. But she still has a long road ahead of her.

“Hailey is not healing as fast as the specialist thought. She has hardware failing that cannot be removed until April due to the tricalcium phosphate not solidifying,” Ullom said.

The purpose of the surgery was to prevent her spine from turning inward and damaging her organs during the next five years. After the surgery, Hailey’s doctors did not know if she was going to survive. It was considered a high-risk procedure from the beginning, but necessary to save Hailey’s organs in the future.

Ullom said before the 32 titanium screws holding the two titanium rods in place can be removed, the tricalcium phosphate must solidify, something doctors estimated would take six months to do.

“The screws that need removed have to wait or it will make the two rods act as paper clips and could eventually bend or even break,” Ullom said.

Hailey was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. She cannot talk or walk and uses a wheelchair. The surgery, performed by Dr. Ryan Goodwin, involved reconstructing her spine using tricalcium phosphate and had only been performed a handful of times before Hailey’s procedure.

“We have made worldwide news and her surgery has been taught to 15 places around the world. She is finally smiling and able to sit up and changing lives. She’s a true miracle and is saving others’ lives every day now,” Ullom said.

Ullom noted Hailey was one of Goodwin’s first patients after completing his residency. Starting 10 years ago, Goodwin replaced both of Hailey’s hips, performed two muscle lengthening surgeries, two osteomies and a femur rod reduction.

“All these surgeries led up to keeping her as healthy as possible. … We both cried Feb. 27 when the simple recheck X-rays showed her spine had given out and she was dying.

He along with specialists from around the world scheduled, prepped and performed the first ever complete spinal reconstruction and fusion in the world to save my daughter’s life.

Hailey would not be alive if it was not for a chance meeting with a young man I really did not think was qualified to take care of her. Ten years later I have her because of him,” Ullom said.

She noted the planned surgery in April to remove the hardware will occur as long as the pieces do not fail before then.

“As long as hardware does not fail beforehand then he will have 48 hours to redo the surgery so the titanium does not oxidize, leaving her with a possible blood infection that can go to her brain. It’s a waiting game from now until April,” she said.