BACKGROUND: Our sweet boy just turned 16 in August. We are so proud of all he's accomplished in his life, of all he's overcome. Andy was born showing signs of Autism, and was officially diagnosed on Valentines Day when he was 2-1/2 years old. His younger brother was diagnosed later that same year. This unexpected turn in our lives took us on a very hard emotional and financial journey. But, we fought and struggled and never gave up. After years of private therapies and special services at school, Andy entered 6th grade as a shy, serious, but otherwise normal kid. Finally free of the therapies which made him miss class time, his spirits and self-image soared. He excels in all subjects, taking advanced placement classes whenever he can. He still battles high anxiety, but pretty much blends right in with his peers.
The one thing Andy continued to struggle with was building relationships outside of the family. We tried karate, cub scouts, and tons of social skills groups over the years. But Andy always found it difficult to connect with kids his age. Then, in the 9th grade, Andy joined his high school bowling team. His initial anxieties were quickly replaced by the joy he found in being part of this team! When a fall on Christmas night dislocated his kneecap, the coach thought he was out for the season. But Andy's determination to keep bowling put him back in action with a brace. This dedication earned him "Rookie of the Year!" We were so happy for him, knowing he'd finally found a place to belong among his peers. But then, we began noticing an odd angle in his shoulders.
ANOTHER DIAGNOSIS: When Andy's 15 year old physical revealed a slight curve between his shoulder blades, the doctor said that minor curves are common and usually nothing to worry about. No action was needed, but we'd have to keep an eye on it. By July of this year, we learned that the slight curve had grown to a double curve, with 70/72 degree angles. By October, the curves were 82 & 86 degrees. The diagnosis became Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis with severe trunk shift. We learned that scoliosis can hit fast and hard during teenage growth spurts, and that it will likely continue to get much worse for Andy because he's only at Risser 2 (out of 4) growth stage. We had numerous consults, and each doctor said that long fusion was the only option. This would basically weld the bulk of Andy's vertebra T4-L4 into one inflexible, solid bone. Full recovery would take up to a year, leaving him with severely limited range of motion. The life he's worked so hard to build will drastically and permanently change. It's horribly unfair and cruel to do this to a still-growing teenager, who's already at a social disadvantage, unless absolutely necessary.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: As with Autism, we've been fighting to find the best course of treatment. We were thrilled when we found a non-fusion procedure called Vertebral Tethering (VBT) and began scheduling consults. The aggressive progression of Andy's curves made him ineligible for VBT, but we found two innovative surgeons who believe that Andy is a great candidate for the hybrid version, called Anterior Scoliosis Correction (ASC). This approach is perfect for correcting high degree, stiff curves on growing spines. Surgery is less invasive (two incisions on each side, under armpits). No muscles need to be cut, resulting in much less risk, easier recovery, and Andy should return to full unrestricted activities at 6 weeks! Best of all, this procedure provides continuing improvement as he grows taller without sacrificing flexibility and range of motion. No lifelong restrictions? Our high anxiety ASD child is over the moon at this opportunity to fight for his right to a normal life.
WHAT IT WILL COST: The more scoliosis families we connect with, the more determined we are that this is the right surgery for our son. The bad news, of course, is the cost. There are around 30 non-fusion surgeons in the U.S., but we only found 2 who were willing to take on Andy's complex double curve. We're so thankful that we found them, but neither surgeon participates in our insurance plan. The hospitals do, but the surgeons do not. (see Q & A Update for further info).
This means that the total surgeon's bill consists of: $45,000 deposit + $20,000 four-month promissory note =$65,000. Added to that will be the family insurance deductible (now starting over in 2019) and copays for hospital services, imaging & testing. The surgeon is in New Jersey, which adds on travel expenses. So, we are now facing a minimum $75,000 investment in Andy's surgery. But there is no question, Andy's future is worth it!
MAKING IT HAPPEN: We began this campaign with the goal of $45,000, because that is the down-payment required just to schedule Andy's surgery. Thanks to the initial donations and a huge five-year loan, we made that payment and surgery is now scheduled for January 21st! Our next big financial event is the surgeon's 4 month promissory note in the amount of $20,000. We've been tackling the pre-surgery bills as they arrive and the hospital bills will begin to hit in January. So our original goal remains the same, as we struggle to tackle the remaining debt.
Thank you in advance for any shares, prayers and donations. Please join our fight by donating, praying, and sharing Andy's story!￼ ￼
For anyone who is not able to donate via GoFundMe, you are welcome to to send donations directly to our family:
A Strominger Medical Fund
4589 Desert Bridge Ct
Highland, MI 48[phone redacted]
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Fundraising team: Andy's Angels (3)
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