Emilyn and Katelynn Horne look just alike. That makes sense, since they’re seven-year-old twin sisters. Both have long, straight brown hair. Both wear glasses. Both have adorable faces that can easily break out into smiles. They often think the same thing and even say the same words at the same time.
There’s just one notable difference: Katelynn wears a brace, and Emilyn doesn’t.
Katelynn was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal cord and spine don’t form as they should. Many people who are born with spina bifida have mobility problems, and so does Katelynn. She has drop foot and no feeling on the left side of her leg, and has to wear a knee-ankle-foot orthosis (KAFO) that wraps around her leg from mid-thigh all the way to her feet. (Her brace is currently covered in Disney princesses, although she could soon change it to something else.)
Over the years – since she was four months old – Katelynn has undergone four surgeries. Two of these surgeries were detetherings, which sounds scary and, to a seven-year-old, is scary. A detethering is when fatty tissue forms around the base of the spinal cord and has to be removed. The surgeons debride the tissue so that it can continue to grow properly, which is essential for a young girl sprouting up as quickly as Katelynn has.
The last surgery occurred just seven months ago and was, according to her mother Heather, an ordeal. “The last surgery was pretty rough,” she said. “She’s older and she’s more aware of the pain levels. She was having a lot of back pain from growing so quickly.” For the fourth time in her short life, Katelynn was back in surgery, now old enough to understand what was going on – and why her body hurt like it did.
After the first surgery at four months, it was clear to the doctors that Katelynn was going to have trouble walking. That meant bracing.
At first, Katelynn wore a supra-malleolar orthosis (SMO) on her right leg and an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) on her left. For a mother, it’s hard to watch your little girl struggle to walk with what basically amounts to machinery on her small legs and feet. It was even harder to know that the relatively small AFO wasn’t enough; they would have to move up to an even bigger brace, a KAFO.
After some time, Heather said they were mentally prepared to move to the larger brace, and they did. Now, Katelynn can move around a lot better because the KAFO gives more stability to her left leg.
What does she do with this brace? Anything she wants! Katelynn loves to run and play with her sister. And she also does something every little girl wants to do: ride horses. Katelynn says riding horses is one of her favorite things to do – although while she would love a horse of her own, she doesn’t suspect that her parents will buy her one.
Heather credits BioTech Limb and Brace for much of the success Katelynn has had over the years. While they now live in south Alabama, which is over four hours away, they keep coming back to Birmingham. When asked if she would recommend BioTech Limb and Brace to other families, Heather doesn’t hesitate in her response.
“Oh, definitely. That’s why we drive over four hours to come here,” she says with a smile on her face. “They’re phenomenal.”
We at BioTech are blessed to have such a charming and adorable patient like Katelynn, who is also a courageous little girl who isn’t letting her condition interfere with what she wants to do. Our hope is she’ll continue to have the same great spirit as she grows and always strive to recognize her possibilities – and achieve them.