Surgery Allows Patient With Down Syndrome to Dance Again

Patient Stories

Leah Down Syndrome-1
Leah Down Syndrome-2

Patient with Down syndrome who faced significant challenges is now thriving 

An unexpected diagnosis

When Darla and her husband, Mark, learned that their 9-year-old daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with acetabular (hip) dysplasia, they were shocked. 

“Leah has Down syndrome, and so we were used to visiting various doctors and specialists,” Darla said. “That day, we went to see the urologist, and they ordered an X-ray just to check on her bowels. When the X-ray results came back, Mark and I couldn’t quite believe what they were telling us — our little girl had hip dysplasia.”

Hip dysplasia is diagnosed when a hip socket does not fully cover the ball portion of the upper thigh bone. The condition allows the hip joint to become partially or completely dislocated. There are various treatment options for hip dysplasia; in Leah’s case, she needed surgery on both of her hips.  

The family traveled from their home in Beeville, Texas, for Leah’s first surgery consultation. There, they met surgeon Dr. Scott B. Rosenfeld, Director of Texas Children’s Hip Preservation Program

A shining light in a dark time

The family went to the hospital and learned that Leah’s first surgery would be scheduled for the summer of 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across the nation and hospitals had to adjust schedules and procedures. 

“Leah’s surgery kept getting delayed because of the pandemic — they weren’t performing any surgeries throughout the summer,” Darla explained. “But at that dark time, a shining light came into our lives in the form of Dr. Rosenfeld. From the very beginning, he has been personable, informative and up front about Leah’s condition.” 

Leah finally went in for surgery with Dr. Rosenfeld on her right hip and femur in October 2020. 

“We knew we wanted Dr. Rosenfeld — no one else — to perform the operation on Leah’s other hip,” Darla said.

Thankfully, Dr. Rosenfeld told the family to schedule an appointment at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. 

“We’re incredibly grateful that Dr. Rosenfeld was able to remain Leah’s surgeon for her second procedure,” Darla said. “He and his team offered us a warm and wonderful welcome to Texas Children’s.” 

Dr. Rosenfeld performed Leah’s second surgery at Texas Children’s in May 2022. He operated on her other hip and made sure that the length of her left femur matched her right. By late June, she could take off her post-surgery brace and begin physical therapy. Then, when Leah went back to school the next fall, she was no longer using a walker for the majority of the time. 

Swimming, dancing and singing again

Leah is now back to her old self: a sweet, happy and energetic 14-year-old who loves to do just about anything and everything.

“She is so excited to be doing the things she loved to do before her surgeries, including dancing and singing,” Darla said. “She told me that she’s especially excited to be swimming again. Before her second surgery in May 2022, my husband and I got her into the pool as much as possible because we knew she wouldn’t be able to swim for six weeks following the operation. Just two months after the surgery, Leah was in the pool and swimming like a fish, as if the operation had never happened. It was just amazing to watch.”

Even Leah’s teachers in Beeville noticed the change. “One of her teachers told us that she had trouble sitting on the floor with her classmates before the first surgery and now she’s able to do that a lot more,” Darla passed on. “But, what was most noticeable was how confident she has become following the surgeries.”  

Leah attends physical therapy regularly and the family still travels to Houston for check-in appointments with Dr. Rosenfeld and his team. “Leah and I both look forward to her check-ups with Dr. Rosenfeld,” Darla said. “She is usually very quiet in doctors’ offices – but not with Dr. Rosenfeld. He’s been so gentle with her and it’s so wonderful to see how she’s opened up to him over the years.” 

“Dr. Rosenfeld is really nice and kind,” Leah said with a bright smile. “He is the best doctor ever, and just the greatest!” 

“Leah is an exceptional young lady who has remained so positive through two major hip surgeries, and I’m so glad she wanted to share her story,” Dr. Rosenfeld said. “Surgery can be a scary and uncertain time for children and their families, and I hope that parents and their children facing a similar situation will be both comforted and inspired by her story.” 

Words of comfort 

Even though Leah is confidently dancing with a wide smile on her face today, the journey to get here had its share of challenges. “My advice to families is to take it one day at a time,” Darla offered. “Ask lots of questions along the way, discuss it with your family and pray.” 

“The unknown of a major surgery like this is hard, and as a parent, you want to do what is best for your child,” Darla continued. “We learned a lot, gave Leah the support and care that was needed and grew from the experience. And now, she’s thriving. We couldn’t be more grateful for Dr. Rosenfeld and Texas Children’s Hospital.” 


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