A 9-year-old boy receiving a new treatment for severe scoliosis was surprised with a visit Tuesday from the San Diego Padres at Rady Children's Hospital.
Gabriel Cortes Aguilar beamed when the "Pad Squad" came around 1 p.m. to give him a Padres jersey and invite him to a game. When asked if he'd like to "throw" the jersey on, Gabriel excitedly tossed the jersey up in the air.
With a little help from the squad, he put on the jersey. In response to the surprise, Gabriel said he's very happy and his favorite part of baseball is the home-runs.
Later, the squad brought Gabriel and his family to Petco Park, according to the hospital. As the special guest, he got to throw the first pitch to kick off the Padres game against the Twins.
In the past, he would have needed small surgeries regularly to manually lengthen a rod along his spine.
"Now he doesn’t have to have that surgery every six months. He just has to come to the clinic and let us do it in the clinic without any pain or any surgeries," said Dr. Peter Newton, the chief of the division of Orthopedics and Scoliosis at the hospital. "It's really a huge advance and I know he likes it a lot better."
Newton said the NuVasive Magec growing rods keeps the spine straight as it grows, for a less invasive treatment.
The NuVasive Magec system involves innovative magnetic rods. The rods extend over time using an external remote control. This technology prevents children with scoliosis from needing additional surgeries by allowing doctors to extend the rod externally, according to the Rady Children's Hospital.
Younger children with scoliosis struggle to recover more, because doctors need to treat their curved spine when they're still growing a lot, said Newton. About a dozen patients have these advanced rods in place now. Each pair of rods costs about $30,000.
Compared to having surgery every six months, the expenses are actually reasonable, said Newton.
This treatment is reserved for severe cases.
The temporary rod will eventually be replaced with a permanent fusion once Gabriel stops growing.