From the outside, Brayden Schofield seems like a regular six-year-old boy who loves sharks, snakes, and playing with his little brother. But what most people don’t know is that Brayden’s life – and left arm – was saved by a rare bone tumor surgery performed by a team of doctors at Children’s National Health System.
Last summer, just before the Fourth of July, while spending time with his grandparents, Brayden complained of pain in his left arm. By the time he went home to his parents, Krista and Duncan, he was still in pain and his parents were very concerned.
The Schofields went straight to their pediatrician, and all x-rays came back normal. A few months after that visit, Brayden felt the same pain, in the same place in his arm. This time, their pediatrician felt a tender lump on his arm and his x-rays came back abnormal, so their doctor recommended they see an oncologist.
Two days after receiving the abnormal scan, the Schofields were on their way to Children’s National Health System, to meet with Holly Meany, M.D., Director of the Solid Tumor Program.
Five days after their appointment, Brayden’s results came back showing a large tumor running the length his upper arm, and he received his diagnosis: Ewing Sarcoma, a bone cancer that typically grows in the legs, arms, chest and back. More tests revealed that the cancer had spread, and he had a small nodule on one of his lungs.
Three weeks after he was diagnosed, Brayden began chemotherapy. His doctors knew that he needed surgery to remove the tumor, but first they had to prepare his body for treatment by normalizing his white blood cell counts and shrinking the tumor as much as possible. Brayden bravely endured six cycles of chemotherapy in two-week intervals over a three-month period. During this time, Brayden’s mom said he had a few fevers and lost some weight, but otherwise maintained his energy and good spirits thanks to his little brother, child life specialists and the nurses on 4 East.
While pushing through his chemotherapy treatments, Brayden’s team of doctors started planning for surgery. The surgical planning team, led by Robert Henshaw, M.D., Director of Orthopaedic Oncology, and Gary Rogers, M.D., Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, knew they had to consider a creative surgical technique because of the placement and size of Brayden’s tumor. “Short of doing an amputation and removing his entire arm, our reconstruction options were very limited,” Dr. Henshaw told WUSA-9 during an interview. Dr. Meany echoed that her team “really needed to think outside of the box, and think of an unusual surgery.”
After the chemotherapy was completed, Brayden underwent the very rare, 14-hour bone surgery on March 11, 2015. Drs. Henshaw and Rogers, along with a larger team of surgeons, removed most of his upper left arm bone and shoulder, replacing it with bone from his right leg, his fibula. The surgeons agreed that using his own bone would give Brayden the best chance at growing normally. Dr. Henshaw explained during an interview that Brayden’s “shoulder is now comprised of a living bone with its own growth plate, which is expected to grow with him and help keep his arm at a suitable length as he approaches adulthood.” Brayden is one of only four patients in the country to undergo the complicated procedure, and the only patient from Children’s National; Dr. Rogers added that it has “been documented only four times in world literature.”
Brayden went home two weeks after surgery.
After five more months of chemotherapy to ensure that the cancer was removed entirely, Brayden had his final treatment on September 16, 2015. Today, he has zero limitations with his leg, two scars running from his shoulder to his elbow, another from his knee to his ankle, and regular physical therapy appointments at home in Virginia where he works on range of motion for his elbow and shoulder, working towards extending his arm at 100%. He will return to Children’s every three months for check-up scans.
November 20, 2015 marked Brayden’s first clinical appointment after being cleared of his Ewing Sarcoma. He is looking forward to returning to Kindergarten before Christmas and is excited about his trip to Florida to swim with sharks in February.