Teen Pays Painful Price to Grow Taller

limb lengthening

Why anyone would deliberately put themselves through years of painful operations and therapy is something most of us can't understand, but for 16-year-old Mallory Briggs, it was her only choice.

“I couldn't reach the top of my head before my surgeries,” said Brigg.

Mallory, a dwarf born to normal size parents, stood just 4’3" (the normal height for a 9-year-old) when she turned 13. She tried playing sports but her bowing legs were limiting.

So three years ago she made the life-altering decision to force her limbs to grow.

“I have pins drilled into my bone and my bone is broken and every 6 hours we turn and we spread it apart little by little,” explains Mallory. The process, called Osteotomy, is done in four stages. It starts with both tibias, both arms and then each femur. Mallory's up to her right femur.

Last July, doctors broke the bone and screwed in rods through the skin and into each section of bone. For the last 4 months, she’s been turning the apparatus to manually separate the femur, a millimeter a day.

The procedure has left the Seymour High School sophomore in wheelchair.

“I can't run or crawl. I can’t really do a lot of walking,” she said.

And she depends on Martha Sadowski, a teacher’s aide, to get around in school.

“We usually leave about 5 minutes early. We don't want that leg jarred at all so we try to avoid big crowds,” Sadowski said.

Every Tuesday after school Mallory goes to physical therapy to help her stay flexible.

“I have to move her and there are days where she's not really happy,” said Mallory’s therapist, Linda Maude.

At night, Mallory cleans the wounds to avoid infection. Her grueling daily routine again is entirely optional. 

“We can't understand it because we're not at her level, height-wise, and the struggles and the challenges that she faces every single day,” Maude said.

Two years ago Mallory had surgery to lengthen her arms by three and a half inches. The year before her tibias were surgically lengthened by the same amount.

In January, the rods will come out of her right femur and a new set will be inserted into her left. The process will be complete by next summer.

“You don't know how much a couple of inches can do to you. I can reach the microwave. I can reach the sink. When I brush my teeth, I don't have to stand on a stool. I can brush my hair," Mallory said. "All these things I couldn't do before."

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