Sarah Shutt – Spina Bifida Patient

May 23, 2016

To see Sarah Shutt, you would never know that at age 24, she has had 21 surgeries. You also might not realize what a determined individual she is.

Sarah was born with spina bifida, a condition that causes abnormal development of the back bones, spinal cord, and the surrounding nerves and fluid-filled sac. Her orthopaedic surgeries were to help her walk and function like anyone else.

Now Sarah is volunteering at the place where she spent so much time – Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center – and planning to get a degree in health care.

Sarah’s Surgeries Start Shortly After Birth

Sarah’s first experience with the Medical Center was as a patient at Amos Cottage. It was there that she met L. Andrew Koman, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon who has specialty training in pediatrics.

Sarah’s surgeries started after birth with the closure of her spine and the addition of a shunt, both common needs for children born with spina bifida. Over the last 20 years she had numerous orthopaedic surgeries and urological repairs at Wake Forest Baptist.

A Hip Socket from a Pelvic Bone

“I started having hip issues when I was 15,” Sarah said. “I walked as much as I could and I did not want to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. However, my hip was bone on bone. My socket was gone and my hip popped out of joint all the time.”

After X-rays and exams, Dr. Koman told Sarah he could take pelvic bone and create a hip socket for her. “In spite of therapy, bracing and surgery, her hip slowly migrated from its socket because of muscle imbalance,” he said. “This resulted in pain and arthritis.”

Finally when Sarah was 18 years old, Dr. Koman did the surgery. “This procedure reshaped her socket and provided support for her hip, thereby increasing her stability, preventing hip dislocation and decreasing pain,” he said.

Sarah’s Recovery

After surgery, Sarah was in the hospital for 4 days. When she returned home, she could not sit up or get out of bed for a month.

“The second month I still was not allowed to walk, but I could sit up and get out of bed,” she said. “I was in therapy for a month after that, 2 to 3 times a week.”

Soon Sarah could do everything but horseback riding. “I had done therapeutic riding for years, but Dr. Koman told me the bone needed 3 to 4 months to completely heal.” Four and a half months after her orthopaedic surgery, Sarah was back on a horse.

Pursuing a Career in Medicine

Sarah has been taking time off from college to combine her clerical and medical interests. “When my dad got a volunteer letter from Wake Forest Baptist, I signed up,” she said. “I have been coming here since I was 4 and have always liked it. I get to see babies born with spina bifida…like me.”