A CHKD Pectus Carinatum Story

Alyssa's Carinatum Team

Holly Dr. Kelly Alyssa and Kristal Physical therapist Holly Bloomquist, Dr. Kelly, Alyssa and pectus program coordinator Kristal Sullivan celebrate the successful completion of Alyssa's treatment.

Alyssa’s Story

I was diagnosed with pectus carinatum when I was 16 years old. I definitely wanted to get it fixed because it made it harder to breathe, and I love to play soccer. So my Mom and Dad looked it up on the internet. That’s how we found Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and Dr. Kelly. We live within a day’s drive, so we called and made an appointment.

At that first appointment, Dr. Kelly talked to us about different options for treatment. One was surgery, and the other was to be one of the first people in the United States to wear a brace developed by a team of surgeons and engineers in Argentina. I learned that pectus carinatum is lot a more common in South America than it is in our country, and that CHKD is one of the leading places in the world to come for chest deformities. So when the doctors in Argentina developed this new brace, they shared it with CHKD.

Dr. Kelly told me that the brace would press on the soft cartilage of my chest and slowly push my chest wall down so it would be normal. He said that doctors had used braces for pectus carinatum for a long time. The special thing about this brace was that they could measure exactly how much pressure to apply. It needed to have enough pressure to change the shape of my chest wall, but not so much that it made me miserable to wear it. He also said I would have to wear it almost all the time.

Being one of the first Americans to try the brace was a risk, but there were several things that helped me make up my mind to try it. For one thing, if I had surgery, I wouldn’t be able to play soccer for a while. With the brace, I wouldn’t have to miss any soccer. I also had faith in my doctors, and I believe that only those who dare to take great risks can ever achieve greatly. My parents supported my decision and backed me up 110 percent all the way.

I can’t lie. In the beginning, it was pretty hard to make myself wear it. There were days where I would wake up and just want to give up on the brace and get the surgery. Without the support of my doctors, nurses, family and friends, and their determination to help me get better, I don’t think I would have been able to get through those early days.

I remember crying before school started thinking about how all the kids were going to pick on me because of the brace. But my sister told me that I shouldn’t let my self consciousness keep me from being who I truly was. At the end of the day, even with my brace, I was still the same girl. The brace doesn’t make you any different. If you wear the right shirts, no one can even tell you’re wearing it!

With everyone’s encouragement and support, I wore the brace consistently, about 18 to 20 hours a day.

And guess what? It wasn’t as bad as I thought. During the year I wore the brace, I was nominated to the prom and homecoming court of my class. I played soccer with my high school team, and we made it to the state semi-finals!

Approximately one year later, I am cured of my chest deformity and officially brace-free! My message to all those kids out there who are preparing to get this brace is to hang in there, no matter how hard it is in the beginning. I promise your body will adjust. And the results are definitely worth it.

Last but not least, I would like to give a big thanks to Dr. Kelly, my physical therapists, Holly and Nicole, and my nurse Kristal. Without their support and determination to help me get better, I wouldn’t be where I am today, brace-free and first American success story of conquering pectus carinatum with the Dynamic Compression Brace.