New clinic at Shriners cares for childhood injuries

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It was the last night of the Barber family vacation at Sugar Mountain.

Seven-year-old Madison Barber was feeling sickly. And as she and her father, Steven, walked through the dimly lit condo they were renting, they slipped and tumbled down the staircase.

Steven was uninjured. But Madison had a badly broken ankle.

Her mom, Katie Barber, said as soon as they got back to Greenville, they went to an urgent care center, which confirmed the break and splinted the fractured bone.

The Stone Academy first-grader was then referred to the Injury Care Clinic at the Shriners Hospital for Children, where a pediatric orthopedic surgeon took fresh X-rays and put a cast on Madison's leg.  

Broken arms and legs and other orthopedic injuries are common in children, said Dr. Lauren Hyer, who treated Madison at Shriners.

And as school lets out for summer and kids become more active, they’ll be on the rise, she said.

“We are coming into the summer months,” she said, “and that comes with the inevitable injuries.”

Specialized care for kids with broken bones

About 1 in 5 children has a fracture of their arms or legs, according to research from the National Institutes of Health.

But because of the differences in anatomy between children and adults, these injuries can be difficult to diagnose and treat, the research shows.

Shriners has seven pediatric orthopedic surgeons who are specially trained to evaluate children’s anatomy and can see patients younger than 18 within 48 hours of an injury at the new clinic, Hyer said.

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“They have a keen eye for an X-ray of a child’s bone as opposed to an adult’s bone ... and the expertise that might not be found in the ER or urgent care setting as to what needs to be done,” she said. “At an ER, they may just be able to put a splint on it. But we can see it through and provide the full spectrum of care.”

The doctors treat fractures, sprains, strains and tears of the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, and other ligaments, she said. Treatment can range from removable braces and splints to a cast or even surgery.

“If it’s an unstable fracture or a break that needs to be positioned better, we would more than likely take that to the OR,” she said.

Though Shriners has traditionally cared for more chronic and congenital conditions like scoliosis and club feet, regardless of ability to pay, it launched the clinic this year to offer expert care to the community for acute injuries as well, Hyer said.

“This way, we are a full-service pediatric orthopedic facility,” she said.

Most children are referred by their pediatrician, the ER, or an urgent care center, as Madison was.

On the mend

Now making up for lost play time, Madison said the injury “hurt a lot.” Making things worse was that she had the flu as well, her mom said.

“She caught her ankle somehow in a very strange way, but all (urgent care) could do was wrap it, give us crutches and refer us out about what to do next,” she said.

“When we got (to Shriners), I didn’t know what we were getting because we didn’t even know it was here,” she added. “But I came to realize this place was much more specialized."

The fracture that Madison suffered was unique, affecting both the joint and the growth plate, Hyer said.

While she didn’t need surgery, Hyer is monitoring her closely to see how the bone heals and make sure it doesn’t lead to early arthritis or impact the growth plate, which could arrest her ankle growth or affect her gait.

Madison was in the cast for four weeks, then transitioned to a boot for another two weeks, followed by a month of restricted activity, her mom said. Unable to maneuver with crutches, she used a wheelchair to get around at first and then a knee scooter.

She’s feeling better now and doing just about everything she did before the fracture. She’s even signed up for swimming to help her muscles rebound.

“She spent so long in the cast I can’t keep her down now,” her mom said, watching as Madison ran with her baby brother, Parker, in the stroller.

“We got here on Friday and this place was just amazing,” Katie Barber said. “It’s like a playground with a hospital in it. She looked forward to coming every single time. We were lucky to have it here.” 

To learn more, go to www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/greenville/injury-care.

For tips on preventing injuries, go to https://bit.ly/2JfUWGz.

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