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Australian boy comes to West Palm Beach for surgery to save his leg

Posted at 4:42 PM, Apr 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-24 06:42:10-04

A mother’s instinct to protect her son brought them from Australia to West Palm Beach for surgery that would change his life.

William Dickinson is 3 1/2-years-old and has been in some type of leg cast almost his whole life.

When he was a baby, William was diagnosed with a rare disease called CPT, or congenital pseudarthrosis. It means his broken leg bone won't heal.

William's mother Aimee says: "William was 7-months-old, he just learned to roll on the floor, and he started screaming and we had no idea because we didn’t know he had this condition." 

After two surgeries in Australia, doctors told the family the only option would be to amputate William's leg.

His mom said no.

She says: "I just didn’t think it was my right to take that away from him and not try further knowing there was something successful out there. Yes, it wasn’t in close reach, it was work to get here but it was well worth it.  You do that as a mother, instinct kicks in, you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure they are happy and healthy."

Aimee started doing her own research and found Dr. Dror Paley at the Paley Orthopedic and Spine Institute at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

Dr. Paley is the founder and director of the Paley Institute, where he is internationally recognized for his expertise in limb lengthening and reconstruction.

He says: "West Palm Beach can't claim to be number 1 in too many things, but we're number 1 in the world in limb lengthening and treatment of these difficult pediatric conditions."

Dr. Paley treats patients from all over the world, and William is no exception.

When it comes to CPT, Dr. Paley says: "He was born with a bone that doesn’t heal. And would never heal. Normally what happens is doctors operate on this and fail to get it to heal; they operate again and fail to get it to heal, again and again, and again and eventually get tired of it and amputate the leg."

But he developed a technique 11 years ago to treat kids with William's condition. He creats a bridge between the leg bones.

"Not only does it heal, but it will never break again. We’ve treated well over 30 children like this and not a single one of them has ever broken again and they’ve all healed," he says.

Dr. Paley adds: "I think we’ve really found the secret to fixing this problem and now the process is educating other surgeons on how to do this so we're not the only people doing this."

The family raised more than $100,000 to make the trip from Australia and get William the surgery to save his leg. Aimee says: "When I met Dr. Paley I was just so confident, I wasn’t worried or concerned at all, I just felt so confident that he was in the best hands and he was."

On William's recovery, Dr. Paley says: "He’s doing fantastic, he’s going to heal, he’s not had any complications, he’s exactly as you’d expect. So he’ll be 3 months in a cast, and then he'll get a brace for his leg."

Now, he is walking his way to a new life, one foot at a time.

"He’s still in recovery but his recovery has been amazing for such an invasive and big surgery. I would do it all again in a heartbeat," Aimee says.

She says she's looking forward to watching William do all the things a typical young boy would do. "A boy enjoying parks, beaches, sports, all those things that he hasn’t been able to participate in this far so I’m really excited to watch him run around and enjoy being a little rascal."

Now back in Australia, William will be in his cast for at least another month and will need to learn how to walk on his own. He'll require a few more surgeries down the road to replace the rods in his leg as he continues to grow. Dr. Paley says those surgeries could be done in Australia, but Aimee says she'll likely come back to see him in West Palm Beach.