Jackson High School sophomore Logan Elliott has overcome many obstacles throughout his short 16 years. Born with club feet, amniotic banding syndrome in his hands and feet, and kyphosis (a spinal disorder where the forward bend of the spine is excessive), his first surgery at 6 months old fused the vertebrae in his spine to help keep his curve in check.
Although Logan endured numerous surgeries on his hands and feet through the years, his back remained stable – or so everyone thought.
“Logan started to complain that his back was hurting, although he was still able to do all the normal things he always did,” said Logan’s mom, Heather. “When we took him back to see the original surgeon who performed his first back surgery, he determined that Logan’s fused vertebrae had broken in half allowing his spine to curve out again – likely due to a significant growth spurt.”
Logan’s family was referred to Dr. Todd Ritzman, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with expertise in the type of surgery Logan needed.
“It was unnerving to be referred to someone new,” said Logan’s dad, Jeff. “But our doctor told us how good Dr. Ritzman was and that he was one of the few surgeons he trusted to perform the surgery.”
Before Logan’s appointment with Dr. Ritzman, Heather was hopeful that bracing or even ramping up his physical therapy could delay the need for surgery. She soon learned neither was a possibility.
“Dr. Ritzman said the X-rays showed further progression of the curvature could cause irreparable damage,” said Heather. “He wanted to operate immediately, but Logan had other ideas.”
Upon examination, Dr. Ritzman determined Logan’s strength and reflexes suggested his spinal cord was being negatively impacted by his progressive deformity.
“I was concerned that neglecting the deformity put him at risk for a permanent decline in strength, sensation, or bowel and bladder function,” said Dr. Ritzman.
The timing of this couldn’t have been worse as far as Logan was concerned.
“This was all happening during the fall when marching band season was in full swing,” said Logan, a trombone player. “I begged Dr. Ritzman to put off the surgery because I knew the long recovery meant missing the whole season.”
“Whenever possible, we try to balance treatment timing with the patient’s schedule in order to have the least impact on school and extracurricular activities,” Dr. Ritzman said. “In Logan’s case, we were confident that postponing surgery a few months would be a safe compromise between our treatment recommendations and his personal life priorities.”
In November 2018, Dr. Ritzman and his team performed the operation using cutting edge 3D intraoperative navigation technology to ensure maximum safety and efficiency. They removed the deformed vertebrae from Logan’s spine and corrected the spine’s alignment by placing spinal rods, screws and a titanium cage to stabilize the spine.
“Logan’s procedure went extremely well – a testament to the excellent team of OR nurses, scrub technicians, anesthesia providers, X-ray technicians and neurologic monitoring technicians with tremendous combined experience performing complex spinal procedures,” he said. “We are very hopeful this will be the last spinal procedure of Logan’s life.”
Jeff and Heather said they were touched when Dr. Ritzman got emotional after the surgery was complete.
“We thanked him, and he was very humble,” they said. “He gave credit to God as well.”
Curious to see what his back looked like on the inside, Logan talked Dr. Ritzman into taking some photos while he was open on the table.
“I really wondered what my back would look like and I wanted to know what the rods looked like too,” he said. “I also wanted something to show to my friends and family.”
No stranger to recovering from surgery, Logan had to wear a brace for 6 months to train his bones into the new position.
“For the first 2 months post-surgery I was on home instruction for 3 hours a day, 3 times a week,” said Logan.
When he returned to school wearing the brace, Logan had a practiced reply for anyone who questioned why he was wearing it.
“I just told them my back was being mean to me,” he joked.
Logan had a big motivator when it came to wearing his brace 16 hours a day.
“I don’t want more surgeries so I’m going to follow doctor’s orders,” he said.
Prior to his surgery Logan did weekly physical therapy at his high school, something Dr. Ritzman asked him to avoid in the short term to allow his back a full 6 months to heal. At his recent 1-year follow-up appointment he was cleared to resume all non-contact activities and pre-existing therapies.
Able to walk and run without assistive devices, bend, touch his toes, go up and down stairs, carry his own backpack and even go through metal detectors at airports without setting them off, Logan was thrilled when he could ride his first roller coaster after surgery. He chose the Raptor at Cedar Point.
“There are very few restrictions Logan has,” said Jeff. “One thing he isn’t allowed to do (in addition to contact sports) is dead lift weights because of the strain it puts on his back.”
Heather and Jeff are thankful for all the care Logan has received through the years at Akron Children’s.
“Because Logan’s conditions are so complex, I considered getting a second opinion,” Heather said. “In the end, I stayed with Akron Children’s because they have taken amazing care of my son through the years.”
Jeff said they couldn’t be more pleased with Dr. Ritzman and Logan’s surgical outcome, and it’s one the reasons they wanted to share Logan’s story.
“Early in Logan’s life we didn’t know anyone who had a child like him,” said Jeff. “It would have been nice to connect with other families just to be able to get advice and offer reassurance. We want to be that for others now.”
A visual and performing arts student at Jackson, Logan hopes to have a career either in the arts or managing a basketball team, a job he currently does for Jackson’s JV and Varsity teams. He says his hero is NFL pro linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who also has amniotic banding syndrome, and is the first person in the NFL to play with only one hand.
“He has the same condition I do, and he has overcome the odds,” said Logan. “He inspires me to feel like I can do anything I set my mind to.”