October Giving and Growing

Dr. Kellie Leitch looks at Hunter Lindsay's hands and forearms during a follow-up visit.
Dr. Kellie Leitch looks at Hunter Lindsay's hands and forearms during a follow-up visit.
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World-class surgical care helps Hunter Lindsay grasp his potential

Published on Thursday, October 8, 2020

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Hunter Lindsay, a seventh-grade student at South Pontotoc Middle School, enjoys playing Xbox games and is happiest when working with his horse, Dakota. At school, he’s interested in robotics and would like to become a computer programmer.

As a patient with radial longitudinal deficiency, also known as radial clubhand, and bilateral thumb aplasia, Hunter was born with a left arm that is shorter than his right, and two hands that were both missing thumbs. Thanks to Children’s of Mississippi care, he has gained the functionality to reach his full potential.

When he was about one year old, Hunter had surgery on his right hand that involved moving his index finger into the thumb position. Hunter's left hand, though, remained so malpositioned from birth that he could not see his fingers and was unable to use the hand at all.

After he went to live with his second cousin, Jerri Bennett, now his guardian, the discussion of additional corrective surgeries began. “I just wanted to see what was possible,” Bennett said. “I wanted Hunter to have every advantage and to reach his full potential.”

Hunter Lindsay and horse
Hunter Lindsay and horse

At Children’s of Mississippi, Hunter met Dr. Kellie Leitch, UMMC associate professor and chief of pediatric orthopaedic surgery, and Dr. Marc E. Walker, UMMC assistant professor of plastic surgery and orthopaedic surgery and a hand surgery specialist.

Hunter was able to share his hobbies and plans for the future with Leitch and Walker, and a series of surgeries at Children’s of Mississippi is helping Hunter enjoy those activities now and look to a bright future ahead, Leitch said.

“The first major surgery Hunter had was to straighten his hand and arm with a spatial frame,” Leitch said. “This took his hand from a position that was completely not functional and placed it at the end of his forearm and in a direction where he could use his hand. His second surgery was minor – the spatial frame was removed. Hunter’s third surgery involved an ulnar osteotomy and plate to stabilize the position of his hand in an even more functional position.”

Hunter looks at his X-rays with Dr. Marc Walker and Dr. Kellie Leitch.

Hunter looks at his X-rays with Dr. Marc Walker and Dr. Kellie Leitch.

Surgical care from Leitch, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who came to UMMC from Canada, and from Walker, who specializes in plastic surgery and hand surgery, has made a huge difference in Hunter’s life, Bennett said. “Having Dr. Leitch and Dr. Walker both working to help Hunter has been wonderful.”

Collaboration among experts is an advantage that Children’s of Mississippi, UMMC’s pediatric arm, brings to patients, Walker said. “Hunter's treatment course is a great example of the type of highly complex, multidisciplinary and collaborative surgical care that we are delivering at UMMC and Children’s of Mississippi for patients all across the Southeast,” he said.

Walker most recently performed procedures to improve the appearance and functionality of Hunter’s left hand, and he and Leitch report the series of surgeries is a success.

“When I first met Hunter, I asked him what he enjoyed doing the most and his reply was ‘Working with my horse, Dakota,’” Walker said. “When I asked him at his most recent clinic visit to tell me the most impactful thing that he can now do with his left hand, Hunter said, ‘I can grab and hold onto the rope to guide Dakota around the ring.’ I think this is probably the most telling accomplishment in his progress.”