Webinar #4 – Nuss Procedure & Athletics
Cormack – Volleyball
When I was younger, I always knew my chest was different than other kids my age, but I didn’t think much of it. However, when I had my thirteen-year-old doctor’s appointment, I learned that the dip in my chest was called Pectus Excavatum and that it would probably start to affect my athletics soon. I loved running during middle school, but sure enough, my mile times started to worsen during eighth grade. My volleyball and soccer coaches noticed my lips turn blue after playing. My heart, compressed towards my left shoulder, could be seen beating through my shirt. I knew something wasn’t right, so I wanted to get my chest fixed. I was lucky enough to live in San Diego near Dr. LoSasso’s former office.
However, despite the numerous appeals of Dr. LoSasso, our insurance company wouldn’t approve the surgery. They called my deformity “cosmetic”. I decided to write the insurance company a letter myself, explaining the effect that Pectus Excavatum was having on the things I loved. Copies were also sent to our California State Assemblyman and Congressional representative. We hoped the increased attention from politicians would help shine a light on the insurance company’s refusal to cover the surgery I needed. They drafted a Congressional Letter of Interest, using my letter as their basis, and they connected us with the U.S. Department of Labor representative who helped us fight the insurance company. After a painful six-month wait, the Department of Labor called us saying the surgery had finally been approved, and that my letter provided the leverage.
Dr. LoSasso performed the surgery during the summer before my freshman year. After a long three-month rehabilitation period, I was able to get back on the volleyball court. Thanks to the Nuss procedure, my problems with endurance were gone. I became a starting member of my high school’s varsity volleyball team as a freshman. I went on to set a new single-match kill record for my high school and become my high school’s all-time kill leader. After talks with a couple NCAA Division 1 volleyball teams fell through, I committed to study civil engineering and play for the national champion club team at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Before leaving for college, I flew from San Diego to New Jersey for the final part of the Nuss procedure. My mom and I spent an afternoon in New York City the day before the surgery. We flew home two days after the bar was removed, and within two weeks, I was back playing volleyball. I instantly felt much more power and mobility in my swing.
When my freshman year of college started, I made Cal Poly’s top volleyball team and became a regular starter. Our season started in January, and we were ranked #1 in the nation the whole season, only losing 1 match. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cut our season short before league championships and national championships, but we managed to win a tournament, and I was selected to the All-Tournament team. I was also selected to the First Team All-League and First Team All-Country. If it weren’t for the amazing work of Dr. LoSasso and his team, I wouldn’t be the volleyball player or the person I am today. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. LoSasso, and I am able to perform at my peak thanks to his help.
Brayden – Baseball & Basketball
Brayden’s pediatrician diagnosed him as an infant with Pectus Excavatum. I noticed when bathing Brayden that water would pool in a small puddle in the middle of his chest where his sternum was already pushing inward. I am so thankful to our pediatrician that he was so calm in explaining what the condition was and he never caused us any alarm, he said we would continue to follow and keep track of the progress as he grew.
When Brayden turned seven years old, our pediatrician referred us to a specialist for an evaluation. We then began to see this doctor yearly to check in. when Brayden was 10, he was scheduled to have surgery with a different doctor than Dr. LoSasso. In researching about the Nuss procedure, I talked to a couple other moms whose children had undergone the surgery and one of them told me we had to speak to Dr. LoSasso. She said he was the best and we absolutely must consult him before we do the surgery. I called and there were no appointments available before Brayden’s scheduled surgery, I was put on a waitlist if there was a cancellation. Lucky for us, I received a call two days before Brayden’s surgery date for an appointment the afternoon before his scheduled surgery.
Brayden and I went to Cedars on Tuesday morning the day before his surgery. We checked him in, got his hospital bands, took blood etc., then picked up Brayden’s dad and we drove down to meet with Dr. LoSasso for a 4:30pm appointment. After meeting with Dr. Losasso for almost an hour, my husband and I looked at each other and decided to cancel the next day’s scheduled Nuss Procedure because Dr. LoSasso told us we were doing it too early in Brayden’s growth development.
We then saw Dr. LoSasso every six months, and he determined at age twelve he was ready for the Nuss Procedure. Brayden turned 12 on 8.4.13 and went in for surgery on 8.8.13. It was the hardest, most painful experience for Brayden, and for his father and me to watch, but in the end it was all worth it. Brayden had a lot of support during recovery from all our family and his friends. Once he was fully recovered, he began playing sports again. He had always been, and continues to be, a top athlete in all sports. He played all sports, except football, very successfully at the highest level throughout high school. We continued to see Dr. LoSasso yearly for checkups. While the ‘normal’ time for bars to be in the chest is commonly 3-4 years, Brayden kept growing and it wasn’t time for his bar removal. Finally, when he had grown less than ½” in six months we determined he was ready for removal.
We scheduled surgery for the summer after his junior year. However, in the early spring Brayden began feeling discomfort on the right side of his chest. Dr. LoSasso told him to stop playing baseball and rest for a few weeks. He still experienced the same pain and Dr. LoSasso advised us that it was time for the bar to be removed. We scheduled his bar removal surgery for 4.19.2019 and we flew to New Jersey for the surgery. After surgery, Dr. LoSasso told us that one of the wires inside his chest had broken and this is what was causing his discomfort, a wire poking him from the inside. Recovery from the removal was easy and he quickly resumed playing sports. He played both varsity basketball and baseball his senior year after the bar removal.
Currently, Brayden has deferred going to the University of Michigan this fall (COVID related reason) and is home training for baseball for next year. He is a pitcher and is throwing in upper 80’s and hopes to play in college next year.
Brooke – Track & Field
Hi my name is Brooke, and I was diagnosed with Pectus when I was 8 years old. I grew up in San Diego with my two brothers and was always drawn outdoors. In addition to recreationally surfing, playing baseball, and playing basketball, I was center midfield for my club soccer team. I was absolutely in love with the game, and each time I walked off the field my face was bright red. When I was 11 years old, I had the Nuss procedure, and within 4 months I was back on the soccer field. The next year I joined cross country and immediately benefited from the extra room my lungs had to breath. My fondest memories from high school are the practices, games, and meets I spent with my soccer and cross-country team. After 6 years of competing with a steel bar in my chest, my bar was removed in the winter of my senior year of high school. I am now a senior in college and compete as a Division I NCAA Cross Country and Track and Field athlete. The Nuss procedure has allowed me to live an active lifestyle and pursue a life as an athlete. The memories I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had in my athletic career have taught me valuable lessons that have shaped who I am today and who I aspire to be.
Sam – Football
I learned that I had pectus when I was very young, my father had it as well so it was on my family’s radar. Pectus excavatum did not affect me until my freshman year of high school. Before that time, I played baseball, basketball, and football… baseball was my main sport though. I began t-ball when I was around 4 years old and I was hooked. I started playing competitively when I was 8, I played until I was about 12 years old. I had some arm troubles that kept me out of the game.
Freshman year of high school, I was playing football and that was when pectus started messing with my athletics. It was the first time I would not start or even play on a team. I was having chest pains, a difficult time breathing, and in some instances, my vision would go black. I was restless, I wanted to keep playing football but I knew it was not right. As I was buying my gear for JV football, I got word that Dr. Lossaso was moving to New Jersey for good. Being from San Diego, that was awful news, although that call was what made me go through the surgery sophomore year.
The recovery I had was painful and difficult. I had two bars put in. Dr. Lassoso’s first words to my parents were, “It looked worse on the inside than it did on the outside.”The hardest thing was just not being able to go out to play sports or hang out with my friends. Once that period of rest time was done I started physical therapy and excelled in it. I started easing my way back into the gym and preparing for varsity football, junior year. I went into the season with a given strong safety position. I was weighing around 170 pounds. I knew I was not going to be in the game too much other than being on kickoff, punt, punt return… all the special teams’ places. Towards the end of the year, I started getting reps as a tight end. I ended the year with one catch for 5 yards.
I worked very hard in the off-season, junior year, as I was coming into senior year I was weighing 190lbs. I was going to do anything to make sure this was my time to shine. I had a mindset of showing my teammates, parents, and school what I was made of, and that the surgery I had was for good reason. I was known as the tight end with the lowest weight, but somehow the hardest to take down. I averaged 8.3 yards after contact from the initial tackler. I did not have a crazy amazing season, but coaches were taking note of my determination. I had community college coaches contacting me, many division 2 schools. I believe that the only reason I did not have a division 1 offer was because of how little I played tight end, just one season. I dismissed the offers I had and chose to attend Boise State University. I had the bars are taken out on July 31st, a couple of weeks before I went up to school.
Now, I am a little over halfway through my first semester, I am doing very well in school, and I am working out a lot. I choose to mainly go to school based on academics because I did not want to work my way up the depth chart again and again. I was very tired of starting from the bottom. However, I am interested in walking on as a Bronco. I do not know if I will end up trying out, but I am working out and preparing my body like I am.
Max – Swimming
Max Morgan was diagnosed with Pectus Excavatum in 2011 when he was 13, and had the surgery in the winter of 8th grade. Prior to the surgery Max had been a competitive swimmer, and resumed competing after rehab in the summer of 2012. Max’s bar was in place until summer of 2015 prior to his senior year of high school, where he went on to have a successful swim season and continue on to swim for the University of Utah’s varsity swim team.
Max is currently studying to major in Computer Science with an emphasis in Entertainment Arts Engineering at the University of Utah.
Wil – Professional Surfer
Featured on the cover of Surfer Magazine, Nuss Procedure patient, Wil Reid is an excellent example of a successful Nuss Procedure. In 2015, Wil was 4th place in the Volcom World Championships, 16 and under category. He also underwent a double bar Nuss procedure two years ago. A Southern California native, Wil is moving up in the ranks of professional surf at a rapid pace.
Learn More about Wil: http://www.worldsurfleague.com/athletes/4443/wil-reid