On January 8, Jennifer had surgery on her neck, an innovative surgery that will help her turn the corner from a painful past toward a brighter future.
“It’ll be a life changer,” said Jennifer before the procedure, and after it was complete she called it, “the greatest gift I’ve ever received.” She was born with congenital torticollis, or what’s known as ‘wry neck’ a chronic muscular condition, which caused among many issues, an ever-present tilt and twisting of her head. Because past solutions have been ineffective, Jennifer spent her adolescent life managing physical and emotional pain and dealing with physical limitations; having to give up practicing dance and yoga, two beloved activities she is eager to resume this year.
Enter the ‘life-changer’—Sanjeev Dutta, MD, a pediatric general surgeon specializing in “stealth surgery” techniques at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health.
Her parents welcomed the cross-country journey if it meant relief for Jennifer. “We never even knew surgery was an option before Jennifer found it online,” explained Linda, Jennifer’s mom. Her father, Bob Jorgensen, said just before the surgery, “We’ve been trying to find her relief…I think we’re in the right place now, I am confident that in just a couple hours we’ll have a positive outcome.” There are few surgeons in the country that offer the stealth procedure and Dutta’s minimally invasive approach delivers major advantages over traditional methods. The “stealth” surgery allows patients to, “Avoid the dilemma of exchanging one stigmatizing deformity for another,” in Dutta’s words. In Jennifer’s case, she was liberated from her visible condition and with no telltale neck scar to beg inquiries moving forward.
How was this achieved? Dutta made three 5-millimeter incisions under Jennifer’s arm. Then, he steered endoscopic surgery tools up to her neck, located the problematic neck muscle, exposed it and divided it. Along the way Dutta performed what he called ‘housekeeping’, eliminating connective tissues that had built around the problem muscle, inhibiting Jennifer’s range of motion.
Jennifer’s condition over time had side effects on her body that were also corrected thanks to the operation. Dutta explained, “Jennifer’s twisted and tilted neck meant that the world appeared lop-sided. In an effort to straighten things out her brain contorted her body, raising one shoulder higher than the other and putting stress on her spine. By dividing that problem neck muscle, Jennifer is able to stand up straight.”
All of this means that on January 14, Jennifer started the second half of her sophomore year at George Mason University with a whole new outlook on life. “It’s overwhelming, in a great way,” says Jennifer. “I can live my life in a way I’ve only dreamed.”
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- Samantha Dorman
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