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Scoliosis & Spine Tumor Center at Texas Health Plano Gets Teen Back to Tumbling
06/10/2013

PLANO, Texas — Gracie Rasmussen loves the sport of cheerleading. The 13-year-old spent hours in the gym each day perfecting every tumble, dance move and stunt often leading to back pain that she dismissed as just part of her beloved sport.

Gracie Rasmussen
Gracie Rasmussen

But one weekend a boating accident revealed a severe case of scoliosis that was bending Gracie’s spine at a 65-degree angle.

“I was so overwhelmed that this was happening and that none of us knew it,” said Gracie’s mom, Lynn Rasmussen.

Gracie and her family were referred to Dr. Isador Lieberman, a fellowship-trained orthopedic and spinal surgeon on the medical staff and medical director of the Scoliosis and Spine Tumor Center at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, the market leader for treatment of scoliosis in North Texas. The center combines innovative minimally invasive technologies and the wide range of resources available at Texas Health Plano to develop a comprehensive plan tailored to each patient’s individual needs, including emotional and physical aspects of diagnoses such as scoliosis.

In 2012, the Scoliosis and Spine Tumor Center at Texas Health Plano had the distinct honor of being chosen by the Scoliosis Research Society for the International Traveling Fellows Program. The only other sites in the U.S. chosen as exemplary programs for fellows to visit were Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, and hospitals in St. Louis, Philadelphia and New York, making Texas Health Plano’s center one of the top programs in the country, according to the society.

Lieberman, who is fellowship trained, looked at the X-rays and asked to see Gracie at 8 a.m. the next day.

“I was just so impressed with Dr. Lieberman,” Lynn Rasmussen said. “He spoke directly to her. He looked her in the eye and told her exactly what was going on. He worked her into his schedule quickly and within two weeks, she was having surgery.”

Lieberman and his team provide the most appropriate and least invasive care to improve a patient’s condition and quality of life. It’s a goal that requires specialized expertise and a full range of support service from the hands and expertise of this internationally-recognized spine surgeon to the ongoing support and dedication of the nurses and therapists.

“During an eight-hour surgery using computer-navigated robotic assistance for the placement of the hardware, we essentially realigned Gracie’s spine and locked everything where it needed to be,” Lieberman said. “We use these special tools and technology to achieve the best possible accuracy, effectiveness and efficiency for patients.”

Cheerleaders are known for their positive attitudes and strong spirits. But it was faith, Gracie said, that pulled her through: “I was really nervous about the surgery, but I knew that I needed it. I just prayed about it.” A strong Christian faith and friends at her church, Prestonwood North Baptist Church, helped her through surgery and recovery, she said. She spent eight days in the hospital at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano and continues physical therapy at home.

Almost a year post-surgery, it was her mother Lynn who was the most nervous as her daughter prepared to do her first backflip on the mat at Gracie’s gym.

“I couldn’t believe it when she did it,” she said. “I was jumping up and down and said, ‘Gracie, you did it! You did it! And she looked at me and rolled her eyes and said, ‘Mom, I’ve done this, like, a thousand times before.’ But I was thinking, ‘Yes, but you got it back!’ Nothing prepares you for watching your child relearn everything they knew, from lifting their head to walking to tumbling.”

Gracie’s passion for cheering pushed her to work hard through her recovery to continue the sport she loves so much. Her coaches credit her strong work ethic and muscle memory for allowing her to get back onto the mat so quickly post-surgery.

“Tumbling is a lot easier now,” Gracie said. In hindsight, it was a curve in her spine that was causing her to veer off to the side during tumbling passes, something she had struggled to control. Even just months after her surgery, she felt that her back was stronger and that things were coming easier than they did before.

“While we want the best outcome we can for all patients, we know that flexibility is particularly important for these young athletes,” said Lieberman.

Gracie, who loves English and writing, is looking forward to crafting the ending to this chapter in her life. One day, she wants to help others by going into the field of physical therapy or sports medicine, and she is excited to share her story with other patients who may be going through a similar experience with a diagnosis of scoliosis. Her advice for them?

“Just trust the doctors and know that you will be stronger than you ever were.”

Spoken like a true cheerleader.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano is a 366-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, providing technologically advanced care to Plano and surrounding areas since 1991. The hospital’s services include orthopedics, cardiovascular services, oncology, pediatrics and women’s services. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Plano has more than 1,600 employees and 1,200 physicians on the medical staff. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL or visit TexasHealth.org/Plano.

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health systems in the United States. The health system includes 24 acute care and short-stay hospitals that are owned, operated, joint-ventured or affiliated with Texas Health Resources. It includes the Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial and Texas Health Harris Methodist hospitals, a large physician group, outpatient facilities, and home health, preventive and fitness services, and an organization for medical research and education.

For more information about Texas Health Resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org.

Doctors on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.

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