A nine-year-old boy is the only person in the world to have undergone revolutionary surgery to correct his spine which was so badly deformed it was shaped like a ‘C’.
Connor Demetriou’s spine had a staggering 96-degree curvature which was squashing vital organs including one of his lungs and left him struggling to walk.
Doctors were concerned the condition known as ‘scoliosis’ threatened his life expectancy.
He underwent a pioneering eight-hour ‘double trolley’ op in January this year which has ultimately saved his life and allowed him to walk easily again.
Trolley surgery involves inserting expanding rods parallel to the spine. This realigns the curve and allows the rods to grow with the child as they get older.
Initially scheduled to undergo ‘single’ trolley surgery, the consultant surgeon decided to perform a ‘double trolley’ op at the very last minute.
This saw Connor have six rods placed in his back instead of the usual four.
The ‘double trolley’ surgery, which Connor had when he was eight, is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.
Connor’s rare, aggressive form of scoliosis was first spotted by his dad, Marios Demetriou who noticed his young son could not stand straight whilst he was bathing him.
The youngster was referred to a specialist and Connor was eventually diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis – curvature of the spine – at the age of three.
Connor was eventually one of 20 children at three hospitals to have the pioneering trolley growing rod inserted to help treat scoliosis.
The surgery has reduced the curvature to 46 degrees which means Connor can run, jump and swim, and lead a normal life until a second op in his teens.
The courageous boy now believes he has a “normal back” for the first time in his life.
His doting mum Michaela Demetriou, 38, a childminder from Castleford, West Yorks., said: “It was serious, it started to affect his breathing and was squashing his lungs.
“This was not only to improve the quality of his life but also to save his life.
“They have placed six to eight rods that go along the spine and 20 large screws.
“Wraps have been developed and they basically go along the spine rather than sitting on top of it.
“The rods grow with the child’s spine rather than having to go and have it mechanically lengthened.
“Connor has a double trolley growing rod system because his curvature was bigger, by the time he got to surgery it has leapt up to 96 degrees.
“Because his curvature was so big, doctors felt only putting one trolley growing rod system in it would have probably broken.
“We didn’t know about it until after he had it done, that’s when we were told he is the first in the world to have a double trolley growing system put in.”
Connor was born a healthy baby but “out of the blue” he started to show some signs of scoliosis.
At the age three, he was put in a full body plaster cast which was changed three times over the course of a year.
Connor was then in and out of hospital every six months before he was eventually put forward for the trial at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
The brave youngster has described the incredible moment he walked for the first time post-surgery and said he feels like he has a “normal” back again.
He said: “[My back] felt very heavy.
“It felt like I was carrying half a brick on my back.
“It felt quite painful trying to sit up for the first time and getting to stand up but when I first did it, I felt proud of myself and wanted to do it again and again.
“I feel like I have a normal back now, it doesn’t feel bad anymore.”
The trolley passive growth-guiding solution is based on the concept introduced by Eduardo R. Luque to guide spinal growth along a given trajectory.
“Before surgery, because his scoliosis was squashing his lungs we did notice some breathing issues, he would get colds often and his stamina wasn’t there,” added Michaela.
“I would say from him being 70 degrees it started to affect him quite a lot, he was on medication every day at school.
“If they didn’t intervene by the time he got to 30-years-old he would end up having heart and breathing issues and a lower life expectancy.
“He will have to have another surgery when he is a teenager.
“When he has another surgery it should bring the curvature right back down and then it will be fused.”
Connor, who has been advised not to participate in contact sports for up to a year after surgery, has courageously attended ‘mud-run’ events just six months post-surgery to raise money for charity.
He added: “I was told I am not allowed to do contact sport for a year.
“I had to get the doctor’s permission to do a bit of contact sport.
“I have done three or four mud runs for charity. It felt like the right thing to do.”
Speaking about the world-first surgery, Consultant Spinal Surgeon Mr Lee Breakwell said: “I was aiming to save his life in the long term and to help him live a normal, healthy life into middle-age, but to hear he’s enjoying his childhood is a bonus for me.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve outcomes for our patients with scoliosis.
“This innovative surgery is another in the long line of groundbreaking work we are doing for the children and families we care for.”