Adopted Kids From China Standing Taller Thanks To Spine Surgeon

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)– A Colorado orthopedic spine surgeon has helped two children from China stand up straight and tall.

Both kids were adopted by a family in Colorado Springs. Both had scoliosis, their spines were severely curved. The siblings had cutting-edge surgery in Denver, five years apart.

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Dr. Shay Bess examines Moriah Leong (credit: CBS)

“So much better! Her back looks so nice and straight,” exclaimed Dr. Shay Bess as he examined Moriah Leong.

Bess is an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC) and Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (PSL).

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Amy, Moriah and Andy Leong (credit: CBS)

Ten-year-old Moriah is standing taller these days. Her parents say more than 3 inches taller.

“That bump’s gone,” said Bess.

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(credit: CBS)

Moriah had a hump on her back and walked bent over. She was born with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, so severe her spine was twisted.

“You see how it curves and spins around like a snake,” said Bess while showing CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh a plaster model of Moriah’s spine.

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Dr. Shay Bess (credit: CBS)

In March, in an eight-hour operation at RMHC, Bess removed a segment and manipulated Moriah’s spine. Then he straightened it with four rods.

Moriah now has a long scar on her back, but no hump. She can stand up straight.

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Moriah Leong (credit: CBS)

“She’s just more energetic, seems more full of life from that transformation,” explained Andy Leong, Moriah’s father.

Andy and Amy Leong have seen that change before. CBS4 first met the couple and their six children in 2012 after Dr. Bess had operated on 9-year-old Josh.

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Josh Leong at 9 years old (credit: CBS)

The Leongs adopted him from China, knowing he had severe scoliosis. They had already adopted Moriah from China and knew Dr. Bess would help them both.

“Sometimes, I hit my head on the cabinets,” said Moriah explaining how life has changed since her surgery.

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Moriah Leong (credit: CBS)

When we spoke with Josh in 2012, he didn’t speak English and gave the one word answer, “Yup.”

He’s 14-years-old now and very friendly.

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Josh Leong (credit: CBS)

Josh: “I’ve been running a lot this summer trying to get my speed up.”

Kathy: “You feel good?”

Josh: “I do.”

Issac is the Leong’s third child adopted from China. People call the Leong family amazing. Andy Leong calls them blessed.

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(credit: CBS)

Doctors don’t know what causes the most common type of scoliosis, although the disorder tends to run in families.

Less common types of scoliosis may be caused by neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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