A new Scoliosis bracing solution – much closer to home.

Most people who read my blog know that I’m not a fan of the Boston brace.  However, two years ago, when my son had to return to bracing after a several year hiatus, his curves were still very mild (25 degree-ish).  In order to save a lot of time and money going to the National Scoliosis Center (which was, and still is, our gold standard of bracing), I decided we’d try the in-house orthotists at the University of Michigan.  I was hoping for a brace that did a better job of tackling the 3-D issues of Scoliosis than the typical Boston brace, and the orthotist I worked with said it would.  However, to my disappointment, it really just came back as a typical Boston brace – a tight girdle that did very little for three dimensional rotation.  My son found it to be very uncomfortable, and we weren’t getting much correction it in, but we had him wear it for a year since we had purchased it.

After the year of Boston bracing, I knew that, if he had to keep bracing, I wanted to find a place that would do a Riggo-Cheneau style brace.  Fortunately, our Doctor told us about Lance Weersma, at the Mary Free Bed center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  So, instead of driving 16 hours to the National Scoliosis Center, we drove three to the west side of Michigan to meet with Lance.  We were very happy we did so.

First of all, the Mary Free Bed facility is wonderful.  You don’t even have to worry about parking – they will valet your car for free!  So, it’s very easy to get in and out.  The staff is all incredibly friendly as well.  Secondly, Lance has a wonderful rapport with parents and kids alike.  He got my grumpy teenage boy to crack a smile more than once, AND, most importantly, got him involved in the process of being measured for a new brace.  Our first visit consisted of Lance and his assistant taking detailed measurements.  Lance uses the Gomez Orthotic System, also referred to as the GOS brace.  It’s a variant on the Riggo-Cheneau, but it is similar enough that we ended up with a very effective, and relatively comfortable, brace.

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On our second visit, Vaughn got his brace (it took about a month).  Lance made some adjustments to it to make it fit perfectly.  Already my son noticed a BIG difference in the comfort of the GOS brace vs. the Boston he had the year before.  The straps on the GOS open in the front, while the boston opens in the back.  I find front opening to be much more user friendly.  Also, the plastic that was used for the GOS is made from a Polyethylene plastic, which is more pliable than the traditionally used polypropylene.  Therefore, most of the brace is a softer plastic, but then the areas that need to be pushing on the spine are strategically hardened and reinforced.  The GOS also has several holes built in, as well as looser recesses, which allow the spine to shift as it is being pushed over.  These relief spots also take away the “girdle” feeling of the brace.  It’s still tight where it needs to be, but they minimize those areas as much as possible.  All in all, my son found it MUCH more comfortable and, therefore, it was MUCH easier to get him to wear it without complaint.

After my son received his GOS, we went to see our regular Doctor at U of M, who took an in-brace x-ray.  We were very happy that his upper curve was corrected quite a bit, but his lower curve didn’t get as much correction as our Doctor wanted to see.  So, we met Lance once more and he made some tweaks that improved the effectiveness even more.  He was definitely willing to work with us until the brace was just right.  He even found a time we could meet at a clinic that was closer to our home, to make those adjustments.  Also, as problems arise (like when my son had a spot with irritation), Lance is always available via email.  This type of personal touch and availability is rare in the medical field, and it’s so wonderful when you find someone who goes that extra mile to ensure the best possible care.

All in all, I am very happy that we found Lance at the Mary Free Bed clinic – we got a great brace, we got to work with a very caring, personable, and talented orthotist, and we were able to have the brace billed through our insurance (a very big plus!)  If you are in Michigan, or surrounding area, I would highly recommend you make the trip over to Grand Rapids to see Lance.

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