Surgery helps Mesquite woman with rare bone disease walk without pain

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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After years of suffering the effects of a rare debilitating bone disease, 23-year-old Patrice Taylor says she looks forward to wearing high heels for the first time and spending hours walking around a mall with her friends without fear of pain.

Taylor, of Mesquite, recently underwent surgery at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital to repair a rare birth defect that prevented the tibia in her right leg from fully forming between the knee and ankle.

The disease, called congenital pseudarthrosis of the tibia, affects an estimated 1 in 150,000 people at birth.

The defect made her right leg bow outward — almost as if it had an extra joint — when she placed her weight on it. Taylor described the feeling “like walking on a broken leg.”

“I had a certain number of steps and once I exceeded that I was limping,” said Taylor, whose right leg, because of the defect, was about 2 centimeters shorter than her left. “It hurt. I was used to it, though.”

For more than a decade, Taylor’s pain limited her physical activity, leading to unwanted weight gain. The defect also affected her self-esteem, causing her to shy away from leg-revealing skirts and dresses.

The disease nearly cost Taylor her family as well.

Taylor was placed in foster care for three weeks as an infant because social workers believed that her parents were to blame for her broken leg until doctors diagnosed Taylor with the birth defect, she said.

“They took me away as a baby. They said my parents were abusing me,” she said.

Taylor, who fractured her right leg in the first grade and the sixth grade, said she still limped after undergoing her fourth surgery, in the 11th grade.

Doctors warned that she risked amputation if she pursued subsequent surgeries, but Taylor said she sought out Arlington orthopedic surgeon Joseph Borrelli’s help last year after walking simply became too painful.

During the two-hour procedure in March, Borrelli inserted a 10-inch rod in Taylor’s tibia. He also added bone shavings from Taylor’s pelvis, mixed with a protein solution, to help stimulate bone growth where her tibia failed to connect.

“She can certainly keep up with her girlfriends at the mall,” said Borrelli, who serves as Arlington Memorial’s orthopedic department chairman and who checked Taylor’s progress Friday. “She should have no limitations.”

This month, Taylor has begun walking without pain and without a limp.

“I couldn’t be happier. I can walk better,” said Taylor, adding that she hasn’t yet started shopping for high heels or dresses but hopes to soon. “It doesn’t hurt.”

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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