Back when 15-year-old Holden Morris attended Fugman Elementary School in Fresno, he was one of a handful of high-achieving students chosen by teachers and administrators to sell newspapers on Kids Day. “I remember that we had to wake up early,” said Holden with his teenaged grin.
Holden couldn’t have known in grade school that he would be chosen as the 2012 Kids Day Ambassador for Children's Hospital Central California. But in June 2011 an unexpected diagnosis brought him to the Hospital for surgery and a weeklong inpatient stay.
“I was working out and my rib flared,” said Holden. Normally, weightlifting didn’t cause problems for the athletic adolescent, and he knew something wasn’t right. A trip to his family doctor uncovered the cause of his misshapen chest. Holden suffered from a fairly common congenital condition known as pectus excavatum. The chest wall anomaly causes several ribs as well as the sternum to grow in such a way as to produce a concave appearance. Pectus excavatum may be noticeable as a sunken breastbone at birth, and it typically worsens during the adolescent growth spurt. In severe cases if left untreated, the condition can compress the heart and lungs, impairing proper function and causing breathing difficulties, chest pain, heart palpitations and fatigue.
Fortunately a routine – though painful – procedure can correct the deformity. Holden and his family visited with Dr. Michael Allshouse, medical director, pediatric surgery and trauma, at Children's Hospital Central California, and scheduled Holden’s surgery for Aug. 5. “It’s difficult to alleviate all of the pain involved with this procedure,” said Dr. Allshouse. “But the investment they make up front pays huge dividends later on.”
“I was nervous and kinda put off thinking about it,” said Holden. “But the night before I got pretty nervous.” Dr. Allshouse and the nursing staff at Children’s Hospital helped put Holden at ease. “I liked him,” he said of his surgeon. “He was pretty confident.”
Dr. Allshouse is all too familiar with the type of surgery he performed on Holden. ”It’s called the Nuss Procedure,” he said. The procedure is named after Dr. Donald Nuss, the pediatric surgeon who invented it. “I perform about one a month, mostly on boys.”
Repairing pectus excavatum involves making two small incisions on the side of the chest and threading a concave stainless steel bar through the incisions, under the sternum and ribs, and above the heart and lungs. “I tell them the surgery is minimally invasive, not minimally painful,” said Dr. Allshouse. “It’s equivalent to an orthodontist moving teeth in one day.”
“I can feel it right now,” said Holden, as he drew his hand across his chest indicating where the bar lay hidden from sight. But our brave Kids Day Ambassador certainly knows the bar is there, and it will stay securely in place until he stops growing in about three years.
Holden learned a few things through his experience at Children's Hospital. “It’s given me a new perspective on life,” he said. “I don’t take things for granted.” He hugged his arms around his chest briefly and then grinned. “And I learned my pain tolerance is a lot higher, that’s for sure!”
Holden has returned to his workout routine, but this time he’s focused on increasing his range of motion as well as on growing stronger.
On March 6, Holden will once again wake up early to sell newspapers. But as the 2012 Kids Day Ambassador, this time he won’t just be selling papers. Holden will represent the reason why hundreds of volunteers hit the streets before dawn so that kids just like him will have access to high-quality pediatric healthcare right here in the Central Valley.
Don’t forget to purchase your Kids Day edition of the Fresno Bee for $1 on March 6. You just might see Holden on a street corner near you.
Learn more about how you or your group can volunteer to sell special Kids Day editions of The Fresno Bee.