To the naked eye, people wouldn’t be able to tell that Jackson Perryman suffers from anything or that he is required to wear a back brace approximately 21 hours a day, including while he sleeps.
He is dressed in a fitted T-shirt, sweater and windbreaker and only after removing some of the layers do you see the custom-fit, and light-weight back brace he wears.
“People don’t really see it and they don’t ask about it because they don’t know I have it,” Jackson said.
This was key for his parents who recognized just how difficult being a teenager can be, without drawing attention to yourself by having to wear a bulky back brace.
Plus, it was imperative that the teen actually comply with wearing his back brace in order to avoid major spinal surgery. Jackson was diagnosed in 2016 with an abnormally curved spine.
“Kyphosis is when the spine it’s almost like a hunchback,” Jackson’s mother Lauren said.
Complications from kyphosis include: breathing problems, limited physical functions, digestive problems and body image issues.
In order to treat this malformation of the spine which falls into the same family as scoliosis, Jackson underwent 3D imaging so the brace would be tailored to his body.
He also does Schroth therapy, a nonsurgical option, customized to him specifically to his needs.
“It focuses three regions of the body and targets exercises to the child’s curve,” Lauren said.
It’s a form of targeted physiotherapy that Jackson is required to perform a half hour to 40 minutes a day.
“It’s costly but it’s been worth it for us.”
That’s because the family has travelled out-of-province to Alberta for the therapy nearly two dozen times and to Germany four different times for the ultra-modern back brace.
As Jackson grows, the brace needs to be replaced at a cost of $4,300 each time. Since 2016, he has required three different braces totalling $12,900, and that doesn’t account the thousands of dollars in travel expenses paid out of pocket by the Saskatoon family.
Lauren said they looked at the back braces offered in Saskatchewan when Jackson was first diagnosed, but they were archaic.
“They do measure each child but they seem like a one-size-fits-all model,” she explained.
“They’re heavier, they’re higher profile and it’s just something we weren’t willing to put on Jackson.”
The family is now renewing its call to the province to revisit this issue so other children requiring a back brace can have the same quality of life.
“We do have to keep in mind to ensure that our program remains sustainable that we look at wanting to select the most cost-effective product that would still continue to meet the medical needs of the patient,” said Dave Morhart, acting executive director of the drug plan and extended benefits branch with the Ministry of Health.
The average back brace in Saskatchewan is around $800 allowing as many patients as possible to benefit from the provincial program.
“The products that are offered through the program those are requisitioned by our specialist and who we would rely on to pick the most appropriate product for the circumstance,” Morhart added.
The province is also willing to review a request where new technology is involved and maybe more effective when it comes to a patient’s medical needs.