Helping Knoxville’s Future Thrive
KOC’s pediatric team takes care in their task to treat the musculoskeletal issues of the region’s youth, one broken bone at a time
During their 20-week prenatal exam, Knoxville runners Kristy and Jason Altman were told that their son, Jackson, who would be born later in 2009, had clubfoot. “His right foot was turned in and up,” Kristy recalls, “and you could see that on the ultrasound.”
While they had known about Knoxville Orthopaedic Clinic for years, they had no idea that one of their fellow runners in the Knoxville Track Club, Cameron Sears, was one of three pediatric orthopedic surgeons there. They connected to see what could be done.
“[Dr. Sears] said, ‘Everything that you looked up on the internet, I want you to erase it from your brain and I don’t want you to go back to it again,'” Kristy recalls. “He said, ‘Bring the baby to me when he’s 7 days old, and I will fix him.'”
As planned, a week after Jackson was born, the Altmans brought their son to KOC, and Jackson’s road to correction began. “It’s a lot of labor-intensive treatment early on,” Dr. Sears says, but it was possible. Jackson would end up having a cast on his leg in some form for months, but the process helped, and after a couple of revision surgeries his foot began growing as it should. Today, to the delight of his parents, Jackson runs crosscountry for his school. “We’ve gone back for various x-rays over the years to keep an eye on that foot, but the kid is out running 12-minute, two-mile races,” Kristy says. “He has really thrived.”
Jackson’s story is just one in a long history of KOC success stories. Working alongside Dr. Sears are fellow pediatric orthopedic surgeons Dr. Curtis Gay-lord and Dr. John Crawford, and nurse practitioners Donte’ and Corinne who work with children of all ages and with all varieties of musculoskeletal issues, including clubfoot, hip dysplasia, spina bifida, scoliosis, and cerebral palsy, among others. The team also treats children who may have complications due to a prior trauma, like a bad break that caused the bone to not grow as it should. But most commonly, they treat the breaks and sprains that come from simply being a kid.
“Trauma can greatly change a child’s life quickly,” Dr. Gaylord says. And part of working with children is helping them through these experiences both mentally and physically. “These are all aspects that a pediatric specialist is required to have—that heart to make sure they can get them through those processes.”
The surgeons at KOC relate the work of an orthopedic surgeon to that of an engineer and architect. However, unlike working with adults, kids are still growing, and the pediatric team here is tasked with treating bodies that are constantly in flux. “Every single patient is unique,” Dr. Crawford says, “and we have to design a special treatment plan for them that fits who they are and where they are in the growth and development cycle, and so that really demands focus.”
“Kids are in the progenerative phase of their life where everything is building up, and so healing is better and healing times are faster and that helps us,” Dr. Sears adds. “But then the potential complications and problems become lifelong if you mess up the way a bone grows. Depending on the age of the child, it could have devastating results.”
This makes the work KOC is doing that much more important to get right. Some-times the treatment requires surgery. Sometimes a cast. And others might require no immediate treatment and may correct itself over time, but knowing what path to take—and how to communicate those plans with families—is where the pediatric team at KOC thrives.
Many patients end up seeing the surgeons over the course of their lifetime to ensure their musculoskeletal system continues to flourish. “A lot of the kids re-quire longitudinal follow-up,” Dr. Gaylord says. “So we do get to know our patients much better during those visits over the years and watch the kids develop.”
Accessibility and consistency are key. And multiple practices and access points across the region allow for this. “You can be referred by your pediatrician, you can come and follow up on an ER visit or urgent care visit, you can come to our walk-in clinic, or you can just decide to come on your own,” Dr. Crawford says. And multiple doctors mean multiple opportunities to collaborate when necessary. “That team-focused approach allows us to make sure that we catch every little subtle thing that’s going to have an impact on the patient and treat it correctly,” Dr. Crawford adds.
It’s collaboration. It’s focus. It’s access. It’s competence. And this team has all four in spades. Once a family comes through the doors of KOC, be it for a spinal abnormality or a broken bone from a weekend on the trampoline, KOC is committed to the healing and success of Knoxville’s youth.
“Our children are our most precious possession,” Dr. Crawford says. “They are the center of our world as parents. And it is so important to make sure that every musculoskeletal problem that your child has is correctly evaluated and correctly treated the first time.”