When New Zealand native Andrew King came to LSU to practice orthopedics in 1980, he planned to stay for a couple of years and head home. Thirty-six years later he’s still here, working as the G. Dean MacEwen Chair in Orthopedics at Children’s Hospital of New Orleans. King specializes in scoliosis, a condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine.
“There are three major types of scoliosis,” King explains. “There’s the kind that’s a result of a birth defect, the kind that can come along with diseases like muscular dystrophy, and then there’s the kind that occurs, we’re not sure why, in otherwise healthy kids. It seems to be particularly prevalent with athletes and is most apparent in the teen years.”
King says one of his most difficult cases happened not long before Hurricane Katrina.
“I had a 3-year-old that was referred to me with a curvature of the spine of over 100 degrees,” he says. “It was twisting his chest so much that he was having pulmonary failure.”
While typically curvatures are corrected with spinal fusion surgery, such a procedure would have severely stunted the child’s growth. Instead, King had his first experience using growing rods. Every six months, the child would return to King for another surgery to insert a longer rod in an effort to keep up with his growth.
“When the child was about 5-and-a-half, Katrina hit and the family disappeared,” he says. I always wondered what happened to him. Then last month I got a call from a reporter in Arizona who was doing a story on the child who, after 17 operations, was graduating from high school as a six-foot-two-inch-tall varsity volleyball and basketball player. We don’t often get the rest of the story with our patients when they move on; it’s always exciting to hear how someone has gone on to do really well.”
Children’s Hospital of New Orleans
200 Henry Clay Ave. | New Orleans | 896-9569