Seeing improvement after life-changing surgery

Last updated on Jun 08, 23

Posted on Jun 08, 23

3 min read

An Elmira resident is thanking the community for the support she received that helped her get a very successful surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

Kennedy Shannon underwent surgery for her pectus excavatum on May 16. Her condition, which she was born with, caused her chest wall to be caved in on her heart and lungs. This led to many complications, including difficulty breathing, stabbing chest pains, and an elevated heart rate that reached speeds of 170-200 BMP even while doing non-strenuous tasks such as walking. It wasn’t until her surgery that Kennedy also found out she had a collapsed lung.

The surgery to correct pectus excavatum involves inserting metal bars in the patient’s chest. In Kennedy’s case, the surgeon originally thought she would require four bars; however, the surgery went better than expected, and she received two bars and a stabilizer plate on the bar at the bottom of her rib cage.

The effects of the surgery were immediate, said Lori, Kennedy’s mom.

“When she got settled in her room, her heart rate was at 76 and I don’t ever remember Kennedy’s heart rate being at 76,” she said, noting the improvement.

Watching her daughter go through the surgery was emotional, Lori added.

“I knew she was in the best place she could be. I knew that they would take care of her and do what was necessary medically for her. Of course you always worry about ‘what if something goes wrong?’ What if it doesn’t work for Kennedy? What if she doesn’t see the results that we thought she was going to see?’ The waiting was the hardest part for all of us.”

Following the surgery, Kennedy’s team of doctors tried to get her moving as quickly as possible, and she was able to walk up and down the hallway later that evening.

“We first tried the bathroom just because it was only like 20 steps. And I was like ‘I’m fine. I feel really just weak and tired but it felt stiff.’ And I was like ‘this makes sense. I have metal on my chest now’ so I expected to feel stiff. Walking to the end of the hall and back, I was like ‘that actually kind of feels better to be up and moving. Obviously I was still very tired,” she explained.

Despite some post-op back pain, the surgery has already been life-changing. Her walking heart rate is now around 100-110 beats per minute.

“I went for a walk around the block last night and I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out, so that was a win. Two weeks post-op is the best I’ve ever felt throughout my whole life. I can do more than I could even before, and I’m two weeks from having surgery,” Kennedy said.

After being told that her surgery would not be possible in Ontario, the Shannon family turned to the Mayo Clinic, where they were quoted a price of US$102,900. Struggling to get answers from OHIP on whether the province would cover the out-of-country surgery, they turned to a GoFundMe, which raised more than $50,000 CAD. Local businesses, such as Smoking Q and Frannie’s Restaurant and Bakery, also held fundraisers, as did the Elmira Sugar Kings.

“We are so grateful to the community. We couldn’t have done this without them going into this. Just thinking of $102,900 out of mine and my husband’s pocket is overwhelming,” said Lori.

The support went beyond donations, Kennedy said. She also had the chance to share her story at the Wallenstein Bible Chapel, where she attends church.

“I got to connect with so many people and just had so many prayers and supports behind me,” Kennedy said of all the support she received.

“I’m very thankful because that was really a contributing factor to me staying so strong. All those people were thinking of me and praying for me, just because it was really scary going into it was the anticipation that was the absolute worst, and that’s where a lot of the emotions were. And then once it was done, it was like okay, we’re now through it,” she said.

The Shannon family was recently told via email that OHIP will provide some funding; however, it is unclear how much that will be. Kennedy will return to the Mayo Clinic in three to four years for removal of the metal bars, at which point her condition should be fully corrected, and she will no longer be impacted by it.

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