Bianca St. Julien is excited to begin her junior year at Miami-Dade College where she is studying to become a social worker. “I want to inspire children and help them get through the tough times,” she says.
Bianca gets her inspiration through her own personal story. She suffered from pain and a severe bowleg deformity for many years as a result of Blount’s disease, a growth disorder that affects the bones in children and young adults. Although Bianca underwent several surgeries as a child for the condition, she had gradual worsening of her knee, began experiencing pain, and started to develop stress fractures at the age of 18.
“I have always had this pain in my legs. It felt like a tightening pain, especially if I walked normal distances. It was difficult to walk to class at times,” Bianca said.
Dr. Scott Schoenleber, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, recommended osteotomies and gradual realignment with an external fixator to help shift her bones into the correct position.
"Bianca had a complex condition which placed a lot of abnormal stress on the tibia and knee. This was causing her a lot of pain and interfering with her ability to walk and remain active, so we recommended surgery. The first of two procedures involved an osteotomy of the tibia and fibula with placement of an external fixator that would allow the bones to gradually be brought into proper alignment. The second surgery, which took place three or four months later, was done to remove the fixator,” said Dr. Schoenleber.
By positioning the knee in line with the body’s natural center of gravity, this surgery is helping Bianca with her overall balance, maintaining equal forces across the knee, and slowing the progression of arthritis. Dr. Schoenleber says one of the most important parts of this procedure is ensuring the patient recovers well through frequent follow up visits.
“Patients who undergo this procedure have a risk of complications and require close observation through weekly visits, rehabilitation, numerous imaging studies (frequently done through a low dose radiation machine) and much more. In order to help children and young adults like Bianca have a safer and quicker recovery, our team offers follow up visits closer to their home, at the various Nicklaus Children’s Outpatient Centers across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties,” said Dr. Schoenleber.
Bianca says she is feeling great after surgery and is excited to return to class in the fall, pain free. “If I can share one piece of advice for other children and young adults with Blount’s Disease, it would be to stay strong and have patience. There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel,” said Bianca.