With no known history of spina bifida on either side of their families, Shelly Casey and her husband, Chuck, were shocked to learn their yet-to-be-born daughter, Alison, would have the condition, also known as “split spine.”
However, their initial fears were calmed by Stephen Fletcher, DO, fetal neurosurgeon with UTHealth Houston and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, who performed surgery on Shelly as part of a fetoscopic spina bifida study, which uses a cryopreserved umbilical cord patch to repair the baby’s spine in utero. On May 4, 2017, Alison was born.
At 2 years old, the toddler started trying to walk. Noticing her potential, her parents bought her a toy metal shopping cart to lean against while walking, and she was eventually able to walk without assistance. Around the same time, Alison began seeing Lindsay Crawford, MD, pediatric orthopedic surgeon with UTHealth Houston and Children’s Memorial Hermann.
Over the years, the biggest obstacle for Alison – whom Shelly described as “6 going on 17” – was a shooting hip pain that prevented her from moving as much as she would’ve liked. Aiming to quell this issue, Crawford performed hip surgery on Alison in June 2023. Since the surgery, Alison has learned to ride a bike with training wheels, and loves it so much that she’s asking Santa for a bike this Christmas. She also enrolled in a ballet class, practicing a modified version of ballet.
“The hip surgery has been life-changing for Alison,” Shelly says of her daughter, a shrewd first-grader. “She has a lot of nerve damage in her legs, so we didn’t even think she’d be able to walk, and we were told she’d never be able to ride a bike. But she works very hard on herself, and the team here is incredible.”
At the Bedside is a series of patient stories with UTHealth Houston physicians and staff.
Media Inquiries: 713-500-3030