Respiratory Therapist Hopes to Help Columbian Woman Suffering from Rickets Walk for the First Time

Walking and taking small steps is something many people do on a daily basis without even giving it a second thought. Not for Maria Del Carmen, however, who first came to Shriner’s Children’s Hospital hoping to one day be able to walk on her own. Del Carmen suffers from Rickets, a bone disease which prevents the body from forming healthy, strong bones.

Maria grew up in Colombia, South America where she was unable to attend school field trips to the mountains, nor could she participate in activities with the other children as a result of her condition. Since her home town lacked accommodations for people with disabilities on public transportation systems, getting around also proved to be difficult.

Because her condition was not properly diagnosed by doctors in Columbia, Maria never received the treatment she so desperately needed. This all changed, however, when Marcela Spraul, who is originally from Columbia and a Respiratory Therapy Manager at Shriners Hospital, heard Maria’s story through the World Pediatric Project. Travel accommodations were made for Maria and her family to travel from Columbia to St. Louis so she could finally receive proper treatment.

While at Shriners, Dr. Gary Gottesman placed Maria on a six month drug regime to help harden her bones in preparation for surgery. Then Dr. J. Eric Gordon performed orthopedic surgery to help straighten Maria’s legs.

Seventeen months after she originally arrived at the Shriner’s Hospital, Maria is taking her first steps towards recovery and walking unassisted on her own for the first time in her life. Dr Gordon stated that Maria is making tremendous strides, and hopes that she will gradually work her way off of her crutches completely so she can eventually walk on her own, without the need for any type of outside assistance.