Being asked to perform surgery on a child is being given a sacred gift. Parents are entrusting the most precious thing in their world to your hands and your judgment. Having 3 children of my own, my promise to each family is that I will only recommend for their child what I would want for my own children. I feel like I am working for the child. Unless a child is very young or unable to communicate, I am very hesitant to perform a surgery until the child has told me they are ready for it. It is my responsibility to educate the child about what is going on and let the child make an informed decision. It often takes a lot of time, emails, phone calls, and multiple visits with the whole team including physicians assistants and nurses, but it is worth it. When a child makes a decision to have surgery, he or she takes the responsibility and deals with it instead of blaming parents. One patient with scoliosis cancelled surgery twice. She finally went through with it and told me at the next visit “This is the best decision I ever made in my life . . . thanks for your patience with me.”
One young woman was training to be an Olympic gymnast until she began experiencing career-ending back pain. She visited many doctors, and underwent MRI’s, injections, and even experimental treatments, all to no avail. After diagnosing a rare type of fracture in her spine, I performed minimally invasive surgery, and removed a bone chip that was causing her pain. She went home the same day and returned a week later, proudly demonstrating back-bends in my office, pain-free. This is a child who, prior to the surgery, had lost her life’s goal, and was becoming depressed; now she is pursuing her goal of competing in the Olympics.