man playing guitar with granddaughter

9-year-old smiles through 17th surgery

October 31, 2015 | Patricia Harriman

Jordan and her mother Jennifer before surgery with UCI Health Child Life specialist Felice Olguin, right.

At 9 years old, Jordan Gray has already had almost twice that number of surgeries to correct deformities in her hands and feet caused by a condition called amniotic banding syndrome that developed during her mother Jennifer’s pregnancy.  

Dr. Neil Jones performed Jordan’s 17th surgery in October 2015, this one to straighten and stabilize a toe transplanted to replace an underdeveloped thumb. Taking things in stride, Jordan announced that she is now well on her way to meeting her “goal” of having 20 surgeries by the age of 20.

A long history of  surgeries

Jones, chief of hand surgery for UCI Health Orthopedic Surgery Services, has been Jordan’s hand surgeon for seven years and has performed numerous operations, including the toe to thumb transplant in 2014.

Jones said this week’s procedure involved fusing bones and inserting a pin into the joint to strengthen, straighten and stabilize the transplanted thumb, which used to be Jordan’s third toe.

“Even though Jordan has been using her toe transfer very well, writing with it, she was concerned about the flexion posture of the tip, which compromised her pinch,” Jones said. “There was some instability when she was trying to grip objects tightly with force.”

Anxiety soothed by Child Life

Although Jordan is a veteran of the operating room and normally has a sunny disposition, she was very anxious before surgery and wanted to go home.

“I've never seen her the way she was on Tuesday,” said Jennifer. “I was at a loss and teary-eyed when Child Life showed up.”

The UCI Health Child Life Program strives to make a child’s hospital experience a positive one. Child Life specialists Felice Olguin and Erica Magnuson are familiar faces — they’ve been a part of Jordan’s several surgeries at UC Irvine Medical Center. Jennifer said Felice and Erica were able to calm and comfort Jordan.

“Words cannot express how thankful I was for them,” Jennifer said. “They helped Jordan slow her breathing down and encouraged me in the process ... they ultimately turned it all around.”

Now back home and aided by a big piece of foam “Swiss cheese” that keeps her thumb elevated and protected, Jordan, with her usual big smile, is healing nicely.

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