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Emergency surgery helps 8-year-old return to active lifestyle

December 29, 2011

Chaz Downey, 8, shows off his skills with an Etch-a-Sketch in his living room Wednesday.

ARGOS — Chaz Downey, 8, of Argos, loves sports. His favorite is basketball, and he can shoot hoops with amazing accuracy for his age, according to his mother Jackie Campbell. Chaz especially likes cheering on his older brother, Chandler, at his basketball and soccer games.
If it hadn’t been for quick action by his doctors two years ago, however, Chaz might not be able to do the things he loves today. During a routine checkup at the Down Syndrome clinic at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis in 2009, his pediatrician, Dr. Maria Stanley, discovered that Chaz’s spine was extremely loose.
“He had X-rays that day, and three days later we got the call — Chaz had twice the elasticity in his spine that they allow, even for a child with Down’s Syndrome,” said Campbell. “Had he been in an accident or fallen, he could have been paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life.”
Something akin to a nightmare began for Campbell and Chaz’s father, J.D. Downey. Chaz had a 12-hour surgery to place two titanium rods in his spine. After the surgery, the then 6-year-old had to wear a halo around his head for months while the rods healed inside his body. He spent 15 days at Riley’s and another five days at Indiana University’s Pediatric Rehab center.
“I think I aged 10 years in 2009, at Riley,” said Campbell. “A lot of days were touch and go.”
A few months after the surgery, when the family was preparing to go back to Riley’s for a checkup, Campbell noticed some bumps on the back of her son’s neck. They learned later that the bumps were the metal rods — they had broken inside Chaz’s body and were poking out, about to break through the skin. Campbell said that their doctor, Dr. Jodi Smith, was shocked. This had never happened to any of her other patients. Chaz went through another surgery, this time to replace the broken rods with a device called a Mountaineer. This apparatus “looked like a ladder” according to Campbell, and was attached to the base and Chaz’s skull and down his neck, securing his spine. This time, Chaz felt much better. He went home from the hospital after only five days and has been doing well with no complications since.
“He’s doing great,” said Campbell, observing Chaz’s antics in their living room in Argos. “(Looking at him) you’d never know he’s had anything done.”
Campbell is grateful for Dr. Smith’s support throughout Chaz’s ordeal and remains in contact by texting her photos of Chaz.
“I swear by Dr. Smith, she was right there with us through it all,” said Campbell.
Campbell said that Dr. Smith has adjusted her practice after Chaz’s first failed surgery, and no longer does that procedure.
Chaz is now in first grade at Argos Elementary School, and enjoys spending time with his family and playing any kind of sports.

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