• Stephanie O’Hanley

Scott de la Bastide’s family thanks community for supporting scoliosis surgery


St. Lazare resident Scott de la Bastide's week-long stay in a U.S. hospital included an eight-hour surgery that he wasn’t eligible for in Canada. For his parents, who were with Scott 24/7 and watched him being "hooked up to every machine," the experience was emotionally tiring but a sensitive coonhound therapy dog brightened Scott's day.

In November when their 15-year-old son Scott de la Bastide urgently needed surgery for severe scoliosis, St. Lazare parents André de la Bastide and Sarah Clayton turned to GoFundMe. Their goal? Raise $200,000 for anterior scoliosis correction, an alternative to fusion surgery which they felt would be less invasive and correct the double curves in Scott’s spine while maintaining flexibility so he could continue the activities he loves.

Canadian surgeons determined Scott was too “skeletally mature” and he wasn’t eligible for the surgery in Canada. But surgeons at the Institute for Spine and Scoliosis in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, said Scott was a candidate for vertebral body tethering (VBT), which involves placing titanium screws along the vertebrae that are causing the scoliosis. A flexible cord is attached to each screw and tensioned to straighten the spine.

On January 16, Scott underwent a successful VBT operation at the institute, the first Canadian boy to have the operation. Nearly a month later, he’s off his pain medications and healing quickly, attending his Grade 10 classes half-days. He’s gaining back 15 pounds lost following the surgery. “Because of all the narcotics and painkillers, you just can’t really keep food down, you lose all your intestinal flora and have to literally restart,” André de la Bastide explained.

“Right now I still have some tightness in the muscles,” Scott said. “I can’t twist and bend yet because I’m not cleared by a doctor.

“That’s going to be soon,” he said of an upcoming six-week follow-up appointment. “The incisions are pretty much healed.

Scott, who’s grown nearly an inch taller since the operation, said his back feels different, in a good way. “It’s crazy now because I can feel my spine on the back of the chair. I used to not be able to because it was curved and I was in the middle, so it’s really cool.”

At press time the GoFundMe campaign had raised $45,032 but to Scott’s family it made a difference. “We didn’t hit the goal of $200,000 but who cares,” said André de la Bastide, adding the funds made it possible for the family to arrange their finances so Scott could have his operation.

“It’s just incredible that the community got together to support our cause because we wouldn’t have been able to have done it,” de la Bastide said. “If it didn’t come through it would have been tougher, we would have had to take other means. It’s really, really amazing what the community did.”

The normally private family, who themselves regularly donate to the Red Cross and the Montreal Children’s and gave to a GoFundMe campaign not long before launching their own campaign, reached out to the public, “because it would have been impossible to do without a little bit of help,” said Clayton.” In a way, because it was public there was so much support.

André de la Bastide says he wants to set up a charity called Scoliosis Angels, an organization that will help pay for Canadian children who aren't eligible to have scoliosis surgery here to have it done in the United States. "I'm looking for a business partner who has accounting experience and experience with starting registered charities with Revenue Canada," he said.

“What we really want to iterate is our thanks to the community and all the people, and the different companies that donated massive amounts of money to that GoFundMe,” she said. “(To) people who came forward to do fundraisers...I get emails all the time even now and I get texts, ‘How is he doing?’ A friend of mine I used to work with, her church group on the South Shore raised money, and I’m getting cards in the mail. Who could imagine? In that way it’s kind of nicer because you feel supported, you feel the love, you feel like ‘Oh my God, people are praying for us.’”

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