Ashley Gets Ahead of the Curve

Dr. Harry L. Shufflebarger, one of the nation's leading orthopedic surgeons for surgical correction of scoliosis, shares his surgical methods. The family of Ashley, a young Miami area girl who benefitted from the surgery, tells their story and how they searched throughout the country for a surgeon, only to find that the best was right here at home.

Through seven long years and countless medical appointments, Betsy Alvarez never managed to smile in the presence of Dr. Harry L. Shufflebarger, Medical Director of Nicklaus Children's Spinal Surgery Division. Not until the year 2007.

“I was always so devastated about what was happening that I just couldn’t bring myself to smile,” recalls the Miami mother of two and real estate broker, who, together with her husband, William, first brought daughter Ashley to see the world-renowned surgeon seven years ago.

Dr. Shufflebarger confirmed the family pediatrician’s preliminary diagnosis of scoliosis, a disorder that can cause progressive curvature of the spine. In fact, 4-year-old Ashley’s spinal deformation was already so pronounced that a nighttime brace was required to discourage further curvature.

Wearing a brace is a tall order for a small child, particularly one as active as Ashley, and Ms. Alvarez anticipated each three-month follow-up appointment with dread. “Dr. Shufflebarger had told me she would likely need surgery in the future, but when her curvature reached 50 degrees – the point where surgery is required – I was beside myself,” recalls Ms. Alvarez.
Not willing to accept anything at face value, the Alvarez family visited scoliosis specialists in Texas, New York and California before recognizing that Ashley’s best bet was right at home in Miami.
Dr. Shufflebarger is one of the world’s leading experts on scoliosis. The surgical technique he developed at Nicklaus Children's more than a decade ago is now in use around the globe. The method involves surgical insertion of implantable rods that immediately correct the spinal disfigurement, enabling patients to lead active lives.
Ashley underwent surgery in May 2007. Within days, the determined 11-year-old was on her feet and by August she had resumed swimming. “I think I’ve gotten stronger as a result of the experience,” said the busy sixth grader, whose schedule includes cheerleading, basketball and volleyball.

As for Dr. Shufflebarger, he received a hug and a well-earned smile from a relieved and happy mother. “Our decision to have Dr. Shufflebarger perform the surgery was one of the best we’ve ever made,” said Ms. Alvarez. “We were lucky to have the very best doctor here in our own home town. Ashley has made an incredible recovery and we owe it all to the Nicklaus Children's spinal team.”

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