Lifelong Holtz Children’s Patient Takes Steps Toward a Brighter Future
By: Miranda Torres
Anthony Gillines, 14, began his journey with Holtz Children’s Hospital at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center when he was born at just 25 weeks. Due to his premature birth, Anthony was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and spent the first six months of his life in Holtz Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
While Anthony was receiving treatment in the NICU, his mother, Maxine Harris, visited the hospital every afternoon and brought him milk since he was unable to breastfeed while hospitalized. When she wasn’t by his side, Harris would call the hospital to check-in on her baby boy.
“I was always worried about him and I wanted to make sure he was receiving the best care possible,” Harris said.
During his time in the NICU, Anthony underwent occupational and physical therapy in order to ensure his motor skills were developing, a major concern with pediatric cerebral palsy patients.
He continued receiving care at Holtz Children’s, and began visiting Stephen Stricker, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Holtz Children’s, at just 2 years old to help him learn how to walk.
Over the last 12 years, Dr. Stricker has noticed that Anthony has developed spastic muscles in his legs, pushing his feet to invert and gradually point downward. The condition, spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, causes muscles in certain areas of the body to become stiff. Anthony’s condition made it nearly impossible for him to walk unassisted.
“I supported his feet with braces for many years, but they eventually became rigid in an inverted position,” Dr. Stricker said.
Because he was shifting his weight to the outer corners of his feet when he walked, Anthony began to have pain in his left foot. In November 2021, Dr. Stricker performed a triple arthrodesis – a procedure that fuses several joints in the foot to prevent recurrence of the inversion deformity.
While the surgery was successful and helped alleviate Anthony’s pain, he began experiencing discomfort in his right foot two years later. Earlier this year, Dr. Stricker performed another triple arthrodesis. Both of Anthony’s feet are now straight, and he’s able to walk much longer distances with the support of leg braces.
“Dr. Stricker has been so helpful to Anthony,” Harris said. “Thanks to him, Anthony is healing and improving every day. We are so grateful.”
Although Anthony has come a long way, he has developed severe scoliosis because of his cerebral palsy, and plans to undergo a spinal fusion surgery to correct the condition as soon as he fully recovers from the triple arthrodesis.
In the meantime, he’s enjoying being a teenage boy, playing percussion in his school band, and spending time with friends.
“He’s a normal teenager who is very talented, determined, and outspoken,” Harris said. “He believes in himself and loves to overcome challenges, so I know he will succeed.”
“I tell Anthony that he has a ‘good brain trapped in a spastic body,’ because unlike many patients with cerebral palsy, his brain damage at birth has left him with very spastic leg muscles, but with quite normal intelligence and ability to speak,” Dr. Stricker said. “No matter how well he can walk in the future, his intelligence and personality are assets that will take him far as he pursues higher education and an occupation.”