'We were amazed': Surgery at Methodist Children's Hospital saves toddler's life

Harper's spine was bent at 90 degrees

Harper's spine was bent at 90 degrees.

SAN ANTONIO – Harper turns two next month. Doctors told her parents that they should just enjoy spending time with their daughter because she wasn't going to live much longer.

Harper was born with Arthrogryposis — it's a rare disorder that impacts deformity at the joints and causes little muscular growth.

Arthrogryposis affects one in 3,000 children. In Harper's case, it impacts the growth of her spine.

With every month Harper grew, her spine would curve more due to severe scoliosis caused by the disorder.

"Most pediatricians won't even see one in their career," said Dr. James Simmons, Methodist Children's Hospital Orthopedic surgeon.

"She went from a 47-degree curve to a 90-degree curve and she just wasn't getting better," said Harper's mother Heather Craig. "Pneumonia collapses and intubations, I didn't think she would make it much longer."

The family lives in Louisiana. They say they went to several states, pleading with several doctors to help Harper. If her spine was not corrected — it would've eventually crushed her lungs, requiring her to be on a breathing machine permanently.

"They all said there's no one that's going to touch her, that she's too fragile, she's too little," Craig said.

Until Dr. Simmons and his team at Methodist Children's Hospital stepped in.

"I can't explain how happy we were that somebody would try," Craig said.

He is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spinal surgeries. He is one of four doctors in the country who can help Harper. And that's exactly what he did earlier this week.

Simmons placed a metal rod on Harpers side to correct her spine.

"It's a device we attach to the ribs and then we attach to the pelvis and we can then cut her ribs so that we can expand her chest and straighten her spine," Dr. Simmons said.

"We were amazed," Craig said. "I mean she didn't even look like the same kid."

Harper's mother says even though Harper will most likely need a lot of therapy in her future, and be wheelchair bound, at least she has a chance to have a normal life.

"Her mental status will be normal and she'll grow into a beautiful young girl," Dr. Simmons said.

Dr. Simmons says that Harper will most likely need to come back every six months to Methodist to get a procedure to adjust the metal rod in her, as she continues to grow.

He says she will be needing these adjustments until she is about 13 years old.

About the Authors:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.

Before starting KSAT in 2017, Lee was a photojournalist at KENS 5, where he won a Lone Star Emmy in 2014 for Best Weather Segment. In 2009 and 2010 Lee garnered first-place awards with the Texas Association of Broadcasters for Best Investigative Series in College Station, as well as winning first place for Staff Photojournalism in 2011 at KBTX.