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Meet Two Siblings Who Receive Life-Altering Orthopedic Treatment at Arkansas Children's [Interview]

August 05, 2019

Posted in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Siblings Georgia and Harrison Milhem moved to Northwest Arkansas from California with their family seven years ago. They had many of the same questions any child would contemplate when moving to a new state: Where will we live? Where will we go to school? How will we make friends?

Their mother, Temme Hollander Green, had one fundamental question unique to her family: where is the best pediatric orthopedic surgeon near me? Both Georgia and Harrison were born with a bone disorder that causes extra bones to grow throughout the body. Temme was confident the board-certified doctors at Arkansas Children’s would provide excellent orthopedic care for her children.

“They are always welcoming,” says Harrison, a rising junior in Springdale. “No one is ever mean or unhappy to see you. It’s a special place.”

Temme agrees. “Everybody on the staff – from the cafeteria to the gift shop, to the x-ray department – are all just great.” She especially appreciates the personal care and concern the kids receive from Dr. Richard Nicholas and Dr. Brant Sachleben in orthopedics.

For example, Dr. Sachleben called her from his home the day before one of Georgia’s surgeries to discuss his concerns. “It was very touching that he would take time out of his personal life to address those things.”

That open communication extends to the young patients themselves. “What’s cool is that Dr. Sachleben will look at the x-rays with me if I ask to see them,” says Georgia. “They explain to me what’s going on and what the possibilities are.”

Georgia’s main problems are her legs. Bone growths often cause a discrepancy in leg length or severe discomfort, requiring surgery. Both kids have screws in their legs, which helps the bones straighten as they grow. And both received physical therapy at Arkansas Children’s to assist after surgery.

Georgia, whose first orthopedic surgery was in the second grade, has had a total of six operations. The last turned out to be complicated. While running cross-country for her high school team, Georgia tore her meniscus, probably due to hidden bone spurs in her knee. Surgery repaired the injury, but her bone disorder interfered with the post-surgical knee brace and resulted in temporary nerve damage in her foot. Faced with the choice between giving up cross-country to let her meniscus heal and possibly losing the ability to walk at all, Georgia decided to put running on hold.

Temme says the doctors have been very open with both children about the bone disorder and its effects. “One thing they have had to come to terms with is that, just because there’s a bone there, and they may not like it, they have to weigh the risk of surgery versus the bone appearance.”

The family had to make a compromise, she says, when Georgia was due to have a leg-lengthening procedure. Dr. Sachleben advised the risk for permanent nerve damage was too high, so the family decided not to proceed. Georgia says she wasn’t happy, initially, about having to wear a half-inch shoe lift on the outside of her Converse sneakers. “Frankenstein shoes,” she says wryly. But after discovering how much easier it was to walk, she made peace with them.

Now a rising college freshman, Georgia knows her challenges have shaped her character. “Each surgery equipped me with strength, determination, and perseverance. It carries over to academics and the rest of life – I know that if I put in the hard work, I’ll get the good outcome,” she says. “By encouraging me and being there for me, my doctors have altered me not just physically, but also mentally.”

Harrison, who plays tennis and trombone in the school marching band, says he also appreciates the encouragement he receives at Arkansas Children’s. “They ask me if anything is wrong, and they want to know how they can help me if I’m struggling. They address each problem I have and help me get back to everyday life.”

Temme has found Arkansas Children’s to be “extremely accommodating” of her family’s practical needs as well. “Dr. Sachleben will take time in between surgeries to see Georgia when we’re there with Harrison to see Dr. Nicholas. They try to limit the time we have to spend driving to Little Rock. And since Arkansas Children’s Northwest opened in Springdale, we have the great fortune of being able to have all our x-ray work done there. It’s been a huge time saver.”​

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