Meet Georgia & Harrison Milhem

  

When siblings Georgia and Harrison Milhem moved to Northwest Arkansas from California seven years ago, they probably pondered the same set of unknowns any child would contemplate when moving to a new state – questions about schools, neighborhoods, and making new friends. But one thing was known for sure, and that was where they would go for medical treatment. Both sister and brother were born with multiple hereditary exostosis, a bone disorder in which spurs grow off bones all over the body. Their mom, Temme Hollander Green, says she was highly confident the doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital would be able to provide her kids with excellent care. As it turned out, ACH also provided Georgia and Harrison – now 18- and 16-years-old – with many new friends.

“They are always welcoming,” says Harrison, a sophomore in Springdale. “No one is ever mean or unhappy to see you. It’s a special place.”

Temme agrees. “Everybody on the staff – from the cafeteria, to the gift shop, to the x-ray department – are all just great.” She especially appreciates the personal care and concern the kids receive from Dr.Nicholas and Dr. Sachlaben in orthopedics.

“The channels of communication are extremely open,” she says, remembering how Dr. Sachleaben called her from his home the day before one of Georgia’s surgeries to discuss his concerns. “It was very touching that he would take time out of his own personal life to address those things.”

That open communication extends to the young patients themselves. “What’s really cool is that Dr. Sachlaben will look at the x-rays with me if I ask to see them,” says Georgia. “They explain to me what’s going on and what the possibilities are.”

Georgia’s main problems are in her legs. When bone growths have caused a discrepancy in leg length or severe discomfort, surgery has usually been required. Both kids have had screws placed in their legs to help them straighten as they grow, and have received physical therapy at Arkansas Children’s to assist them after recovery.

Georgia, whose first orthopedic surgery was in the second grade, has had six total operations. The latest turned out to be complicated. While running cross-country for her high school team, Georgia tore her meniscus, probably due to hidden bone spurs in her knee. Surgery repaired the injury, but her exostoses interfered with the post-surgical knee brace and resulted in temporary nerve damage in her foot. Faced with the choice between giving up cross-country to let her meniscus heal and possibly losing the ability to walk at all, Georgia decided to put running on hold. As the tuba section leader in her school band, the idea of not being able to march was also more than she was willing to risk.

Temme says that their doctors have been very open with both children about their bone disorder and its effects. “One thing they have had to come to terms with is that, just because there’s a bone there, and they may not like it, they have to weigh the risk of surgery versus the bone appearance.”

A compromise had to be made, she says, when Georgia was due to have a leg-lengthening procedure. Dr. Sachlaben advised that the risk for permanent nerve damage was too great, and it was decided not to proceed. Georgia says she wasn’t happy, initially, about having to wear a half-inch shoe lift on the outside of her Converse sneakers. “Frankenstein shoes,” she says wryly. But after discovering how much easier they made it to walk – and march – she has made her peace with them.

This college-bound senior knows that her challenges have helped grow her character. “Each surgery has equipped me with strength, determination and perseverance. It carries over to academics and the rest of life – I know that if I really put in the hard work, I’ll get the good outcome,” she says. “By encouraging me and being there for me, my doctors have altered me not just physically, but also mentally.”

Harrison, who plays tennis, and also trombone in the band with his sister, says he also appreciates the encouragement he receives from ACH. “They ask me what is wrong, what am I struggling with. They address each problem I have, and help me get back to everyday life.”

Temme has found the hospital to be “extremely accommodating” of her family’s practical needs as well. “Dr. Sachlaben will take time in between surgeries to see Georgia when we’re there with Harrison to see Dr. Nicholas. They try to limit the time we have to spend driving to Little Rock. And, now that the hospital is open in Springdale, we’ve had the great fortune of being able to have all our x-ray work done there. It’s been a huge time saver.”

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