Standing Tall after Life-Changing Orthopedic Surgery
A rare bone disease caused Patrice Taylor to spend more than half her life suffering with debilitating pain and struggling to walk. Thanks to a life-changing orthopedic surgery performed at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, Patrice is now reaching for the stars.
At 23 years old, Patrice is shy, smart and wise beyond her years. Simple things such as reading, working and spending time with family and friends give her the greatest joy. When it comes to counting her blessings, some of her smallest accomplishments are part of life’s biggest gifts.
“One of the best things about having the surgery to strengthen my right leg is that I can finally stand on my tiptoes. That’s so cool,” Patrice says. “I can balance on one leg and finally walk more than a few steps without having to sit down from the pain. My life became normal the minute my surgery was over.”
A Broken Beginning
Patrice was born with congenital pseudarthrosis of the tibia (CPT), a complex condition with no known cause and no recognizable symptoms at birth. CPT causes the bones in an infant’s leg to bow and unexpectedly fracture as the baby grows or begins to walk, typically before age 2. It affects one in every 190,000 infants.
Patrice’s grandmother, Belinda Taylor, noticed something wrong with her granddaughter’s right leg when Patrice was just 9 months old. “She was a beautiful, active baby with chubby little legs,” Belinda says with a laugh. “One day when I was changing her diaper, I felt a knot on her leg and saw her foot was slightly swollen. I never could have imagined her leg was broken. She had been walking and playing on it for weeks and never showed the first sign of pain. Patrice always has been brave.”
It was during a routine trip to the pediatrician for her immunizations that Patrice’s mother, Tonya, mentioned the mysterious knot and that her baby’s leg looked slightly bowed. X-rays revealed a break in her tiny leg. “It was an emotionally devastating and nerve-wracking time for our entire family,” Belinda says. “Patrice was our pride and joy. I just am thankful to God that doctors finally figured out it was a birth defect.”
Making Things Right
Over the course of the next 12 years, Patrice underwent a series of corrective surgeries to stabilize her leg’s fragile bones. Until the sixth grade, she enjoyed an active life, full of cheerleading, track meets and sports. “I remember the moment in gym class when I turned and felt my leg snap underneath me. I knew it was bad,” she says. “I had to have several surgeries. They put a rod in my leg when I was a baby — but I outgrew it. I could feel it sticking me in my leg when I walked, so they removed it when I was in 10th grade. I also had surgery on my left knee to even out my legs. Needless to say, growing up was a very difficult time for me.”
Until recently, Patrice walked with a chronic limp, spending the majority of her time alone in her room, resting or reading. “Walking even a couple of steps left me exhausted and with severe pain in my leg and back. I just couldn’t keep up,” she says. “I couldn’t go to the mall or walk around campus without having to sit down and rest. I grew up feeling like I was ruining things for my friends and family. I missed out on most of my childhood and even my prom.”
A Step in the Right Direction
At the end of 2012, Patrice finally found the hope and healing she had been looking for when physicians referred her to Joseph Borrelli, M.D., orthopedic department chair at Texas Health Arlington and orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedic Medicine Specialists, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice.
“Dr. Borrelli explained he could fix my leg by inserting a rod into my tibia and securing it with four screws,” Patrice says. “I was nervous, but he was so nice and I felt like I could trust him, so I went for it.” In a revolutionary procedure know as an intramedullary nailing, Dr. Borrelli used a bone graft from Patrice’s pelvis to create bone shavings that were later mixed with bone morphogenetic protein to help stimulate bone growth.
“The surgery was a total miracle and Dr. Borelli is a gift from God,” says Tonya Taylor, Patrice’s mom. “By the second day, Patrice was up and walking on crutches, and her pain was gone almost immediately. After everything she has been through, I cried when I saw her walk for the first time without a limp.”
Higher and Higher
Since making a full recovery from her surgery in March, Patrice is busy working full time, preparing to go back to college and has started working out. “My goal is to start jogging and get back in shape,” she says. “I was once a couch potato because I didn’t have a choice — well, not anymore. Thanks to Dr. Borrelli, I have a new life and I can chase my dreams with both legs.”
“I know God brought Dr. Borrelli into Patrice’s life to heal and restore her. Dr. Borrelli’s work is astonishing. The surgery helped transform Patrice into a new, joy-filled person. She used to walk with a limp — but now she holds her head up and struts. I am so thankful for her new life,” Tonya Taylor said.
Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.