“By age 3, she had already undergone 3 surgeries”
Ella has had three surgeries in the three years since her birth. She was born with myelomeningocele, a severe form of open spina bifida. This defect caused her spinal cord and surrounding nerves to protrude through an opening in her spine, forming a visible sac on her back. This is the most serious form of the disease. Ella’s exposed nerves and muscles were at a high risk for infection, so prompt treatment was needed following her delivery. She underwent spinal repair surgery to close the opening in the vertebrae of her lower back. During the procedure, Ella’s doctor placed her spinal cord and tissue back inside of her body and covered them with muscle and skin.
In addition to the partial paralysis as a result of the opening in her spine, she had also developed hydrocephalus in the womb, a build-up of fluid in the cavities deep within her brain. It is commonly associated with myelomenigocele and was detected at a mere 17 weeks gestation. After Ella’s birth, the excess cerebrospinal fluid began rapidly increasing at a rate that her little body couldn’t properly absorb. The build-up causes the ventricles to enlarge and puts pressure on the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid normally flows through the ventricles and bathes the brain and spinal column. However, the pressure of too much fluid can damage brain tissues and cause a variety of impairments in brain function. In Ella’s case, surgery was necessary to control her condition. Her doctor performed a shunt placement to implant a device in Ella’s brain that would drain any extra fluid.
Ella’s third surgery was to correct her clubfoot, a birth defect in which the foot appears twisted out of shape or position. In clubfoot, the tissues connecting the muscles to the bone (tendons) are shorter than usual. Ella’s doctor decided that an invasive approach was necessary to lengthen her tendons to help ease her foot into a better position.
Due to the severity of her condition, Ella has no feeling below her knees and relies on a wheelchair for mobility. But at age three, Ella is always eager to learn and loves to make others laugh. She is incredibly friendly and is always smiling through her endless series of appointments. She receives daily treatment five times a week via extensive physical and occupational therapies, but is never discouraged. Her sweet demeanor and sassy nature keep her in good spirits no matter how much pain she is in.
It is with great pride that we honor Ella’s resilience by recognizing her as Kids Wish Network’s along with Kids Unlimited Learning Academy – Fort Smith’s Hero of the Month. Congratulations, Ella!