Spine surgeon, Dr. Shay Bess, performs a life saving surgery on a young man adopted from China


Standing Tall in America

Can you help him?

That’s what Amy Leong asked Shay Bess, M.D., a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC). 

Amy and her husband Andy were considering adopting Joshua, a nine-year-old boy from China who suffered from scoliosis, a condition in which the spine abnormally curves. Joshua’s scoliosis was so severe that it had been declared untreatable in his native country.   

When Dr. Bess told the couple that he would do anything he could to assist them in their mission, the Leongs started the long process of filing the appropriate paperwork with the same agency that helped them adopt their daughter.

The family traveled to China in February to adopt Joshua and another boy. After returning home, Joshua met Dr. Bess and his team for preliminary testing and detailed medical examinations. Imaging results showed that one of Joshua’s lungs was already being crushed by the severe curve of his spine, which meant that without medical intervention, he would not survive for long.  

Life-Changing Surgery

Before undergoing surgery, most scoliosis patients need to be in traction for months—a treatment that uses exterior tension devices to reduce the curve of the spine. In Joshua’s case, Dr. Bess was able to use a new surgical technique instead. The surgery worked as an internal traction by taking apart Joshua’s spine, piece by piece, and manipulating, straightening and reassembling the very soft bones of his spinal column. 

“We are one of very few hospitals in the country using this single-stage internal traction method,” says Dr. Bess. “Networking with other physicians around the country and participating in research projects allows us to stay on the cutting edge of many surgical innovations.”

Fifteen long hours after Joshua’s procedure began, Dr. Bess emerged from the operating room and told the anxious Leongs that the surgery was a complete success. Joshua’s spine had been straightened, the hump on his back had disappeared and he had gained about five inches in stature.

“His lung was no longer compromised by his spinal column, and he could stand up straight for the first time in his life,” says Dr. Bess. “It’s really incredible that immediately after surgery, Joshua looked like a nine-year-old instead of a four-year-old.” 

RMHC to the Rescue   

After 11 days recovering at RMHC, where he won the hearts of his entire health care team with his smile and positive attitude, a healthy Joshua returned home with his family.  

The Leongs believe that God brought Joshua to them—and to Dr. Bess.

“We felt confident that he was in good hands and that we could trust everyone at the hospital to provide excellent care,” says Amy Leong. “There are many children like Joshua with complex conditions waiting to be adopted, and with good medical care, there’s hope for a full life for them.”

“We are just a piece of the puzzle that helped Joshua; the family is the real hero here,” adds Dr. Bess. “Thankfully, we have the technology at RMHC to treat the most advanced conditions and help kids go out and enjoy their lives.”