When Quinn Harper was 6 weeks old, her pediatrician noticed a hip click—an audible pop or click of the hip joint—during a routine hip check. The doctor sent Quinn and her family to see Tim Schrader, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Director of the Hip Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, for a more thorough examination.
Quinn was diagnosed with developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), also known as hip dysplasia, a condition that occurs in 1 in every 1,000 births. Dr. Schrader says, “Developmental dysplasia of the hip is something I often treat at Children’s. Every patient is different, so we tailor treatments so that they have the best possible outcome.” To treat it, Dr. Schrader put Quinn into a Pavlik harness to hold her hips in the proper position. When that didn’t help correct the problem, the next step was surgery.
Dr. Schrader performed a bilateral closed reduction on Quinn’s hips and put her in a spica cast, which immobilized her from her midsection to her calves, at around 4 months old. “Spica casts are important because they prevent movement while the hips are healing. Spica casts can be challenging, but Children’s offers tips and resources as well as a Facebook support group to help parents,” says Dr. Schrader.
Quinn’s big brother, Zac, knew that his baby sister would have to be in the restrictive body cast for at least a couple months. As Christmas approached and Zac went to visit Santa Claus, he told Santa all he wanted was a baby doll for his sister that looked like her, cast and all.
Melissa Harper, their mom, was touched by her son’s wish for Quinn and reached out to Terra Barfield, one of the orthopedic technicians on Quinn’s care team, to see if she could pull a few strings.
“Melissa told me the story of Quinn’s brother asking Santa for a doll that looked just like his sister so she could feel special,” Terra said. “I have three children and I couldn’t imagine what she’s going through, so I would do anything to make it easier for them.”
Terra took the baby doll to her office and created a tiny spica cast—in purple, to match Quinn’s cast—for Quinn’s special Christmas surprise. When Quinn opened it on Christmas morning, she was delighted. Melissa says Quinn loves to hug her doll and feel the different textures of the doll’s cast, dress and hair.
Not long after the holidays, after wearing her cast for more than three months, Quinn got out of her cast and into a rigid Rhino brace to wear for another few months—and she finally got to take a real bath again. Quinn will soon start to wean off of wearing her brace 24/7, decreasing her time in it every few weeks. If all goes to plan, Melissa says, Quinn could be brace-free for good by her first birthday.