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Pau Dishes A Valuable Assist to Dr. Skaggs

2010 October 10

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Pau scrubs in and helps bring childhood scoliosis and the work of CHLA to the forefront. Copyrights may apply. All rights reserved.

• dEDGE Post Scriptum •

Make it a habit to hug your kids each day. And thank the heavens above that your child is happy, vibrant and most importantly, healthy. And while you’re at it, give thanks to all of the wonderful physicians that help afflicted children live slightly more normal and comfortable lives through their dedication, hard work and passion. We all know Pau Gasol through his gallant efforts on the hardwood with the Los Angeles Lakers. But how many knew that Gasol’s first passion was medicine and healing others? In this strange twist of fate, Pau’s love for medicine coupled with the brilliant actions of Dr. David Skaggs (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles) provide a glimpse into the relative unknown world of childhood scoliosis and the breakthroughs that have given these children an opportunity to stand tall. Please take a moment to read an inspiring story about true dedication, professionalism, and spirit, and how Dr. Skaggs, along with an assist from Pau Gasol helped change one girl’s life: Pau Gasol Scrubs In (by Tom Friend; ESPN)

The operation would be major. He would slice her back open, break her spine and reconstruct it with metal rods and screws. He would be using drills and power tools just centimeters from her spinal column, and one slip could mean paralysis or a punctured aorta.”

This article is dedicated to our wonderful friend Alex. He too, suffers from scoliosis and a number of other ailments that requires him to frequent the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles on a regimented basis. But through all of his discomfort, all of the needle pricks, and all of the constant x-rays and surgical procedures, he remains upbeat, vibrant and positive. Along with cheering for Pau, Kobe and the rest of the Lakers, Alex and his family share an important date with us. Alex and my daughter Sydney share the same birthday. They were also born in the same hospital, literally within hours of one another. While we celebrated the arrival of our beautiful baby girl, Alex’s parents were down the hall, counseling with an army of doctors and nursing staff about the slew of problems that faced young Alex.

While we marveled at the strength of Sydney’s lungs as she wailed, waiting to be fed, Alex would have to be soothed immediately for fear of his heart racing too quickly. And as we struggled with the uncertainty that all new parents face, Alex remained in the hospital, unable to come home. As the years passed, we praised our daughter for her perfect attendance awards in elementary school, while Alex would have to miss class due to a nasty infection, his numerous appointments or recovery from his multitude of surgical procedures. Yet through it all, Alex is just like any other ordinary, active, 11-yr. old boy that we’ve grown to love like one of our own. And even though Alex and Sydney’s interests have started to wander in opposite directions, one thing remains constant, their love and friendship for one another.

Our families have celebrated their joint birthdays together since we’ve become close friends over 11 years ago. We laugh together at their crooked teeth and awkward hair styles, and we roll our eyes at the sheer number of electronic gadgets they both possess. But most importantly, we celebrate another year together, to share, to cherish, and to hold close to our hearts. Despite Alex’s difficulties, he is as active as any other boy his age, participating in AYSO and little league. He also tap dances, fences, swims, plays the trumpet and gets into the typical “boy-his-age” mischief. He had a stunning performance as a Revolutionary figure in his class play, often mimics his favorite dance crew “the Jabbawockeez,” and goes fishing with his dad on their boat in the Santa Monica Bay.

If you ever saw the beaming smile on Alex’s face, you would never think anything was wrong, other than another slouchy tween kid with somewhat poor posture. His intelligence and spirit are unrivaled yet he understands the limitations of his body. To Alex, this is simply the hand he’s been dealt. There’s no whining or feeling sorry for himself, quite simply, there aren’t enough hours in the day to waste on wasting time.

Dr. Skaggs treats many, many children, and his first patient to undergo the VEPTR (vertical expandable titanium rib) procedure at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, was young Alex. Alex was a pioneer for this procedure and remains a benchmark going forward. He is not cured or close to being completed with his surgeries because as a child, Alex needs to be continually adjusted to allow for his growth. Each time Alex grows a little, he needs another adjustment, similar to cranking up another notch on a car jack. His titanium ribs are pushed and separated further, straightening him a tad more vertical providing his internal organs a fraction more space to grow and mature.

Thanks to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Dr. Skaggs, plus the additional attention afforded by Pau Gasol, Isabelle (as identified in the article), or any boy like Alex can live healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives. There are countless, nameless others that help these children and I applaud them all. But it is Alex and all other children dealing with pain and life’s misfortunes that are the real superstars, relegating a true giant such as Pau Gasol into the role of a supporting player.

15 Responses
  1. Lisa J.Coleman permalink
    October 14, 2010

    I recently met Alex and his family in July(Alex was a guest speaker at the Zeta Beta Tau Dinner)and was struck by his zest for life and the calm and reassuring way that his parents engaged with him. The entire family is a testament to the fact that no matter what life serves you, it is having an, “attitude of gratitude” that makes all the difference. God has truly blessed this family and I am honored to have met them. Alex you ROCK!!!!

  2. babble ball permalink
    October 14, 2010

    It is more than refreshing to hear about players and great causes. It is funny that you never read any of this in the LA Times – maybe I missed it – you know the Times seems to focus on the athlete arrest of the week.

    I congratulate Pau and all he does – a true role model!!

  3. Alex's mom permalink
    October 12, 2010

    Thank you, Steve & Sydney & family, for being such wonderfully supportive friends… You’ve been with us through it all… Its because of friends like you that Alex remains upbeat & positive in life, and we find hope and strength… Thanks to Pau Gasol for taking time to help Dr. Skaggs and the children of CHLA.

  4. October 12, 2010

    What a beautifully written story – warm, loving and unflinching – a testament to authentic heroism – a realm where Alex, so naturally, lives. Thank you!

  5. Anonymous permalink
    October 12, 2010

    Kudos to Pau, but Alex and others like him are the true role models.

  6. MisterChris permalink
    October 11, 2010

    Thanks for bringing to light a story of an athlete doing good for the community. It’s refreshing to hear something positive rather than the typical overpaid athlete getting into trouble.

  7. mrGuru32 permalink
    October 11, 2010

    Go Alex!

  8. Kristy permalink
    October 11, 2010

    As a parent of a child who recently had the VEPTR procedure, I am so thankful that Pau Gasol has allowed the general public to see how strong our children can be.

  9. October 11, 2010

    Alex is a true warrior and inspires us all to be better and more courageous.

  10. Lakers4Life permalink
    October 11, 2010

    Good things happen to good people. Much props to Pau and Dr. Skaggs.

  11. Purple_Reign permalink
    October 11, 2010

    I shared this with my wife today. And she thought I was just a stupid, sports jock.

  12. TexasKim permalink
    October 11, 2010

    Alex is and was a complete miracle who happily continues to bless his immediate and extended family!

  13. Lake_Show permalink
    October 11, 2010

    I just hugged my kids. Thanks.

  14. Mike_R permalink
    October 11, 2010

    Nice assist Pau.

Comments are closed.