BILLINGS, MT (Courtesy SCL Health - Angela Douglas) - When Christopher Smith and his twin brother were born three and half months premature in August 1990, the doctors didn’t expect either to live for very long. 

“They both weighed just under three pounds,” Christopher’s mother, Vicki, recalled. “We spent four months in the NICU at Primary Children’s Hospital down in Salt Lake City. We were home by Christmas.”

Last August, Christopher and Matthew celebrated their 30th birthdays.

But the past 30 years haven’t been without adversity. Christopher has significant cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound. 

“He’s nonverbal and is cognitively around 2-3 years old,” Vicki explained.

As his mother and caregiver, Vicki noticed Christopher was experiencing some pain and discomfort. But they couldn’t pinpoint it right away.

“When he was 11 years old, Christopher had rods placed in his spine for scoliosis,” Vicki said. “What we found was that one of the rods had broken off at some point, probably quite some time ago, but was now causing pain for Christopher.”

Their doctor in Helena said they’d need to see a neurosurgeon, so Vicki reached out to the St. Vincent Healthcare Neuroscience Center for Brain and Spine. There, they met with Dr. Robert Lynagh who discussed with them the best treatment option for Christopher: robotic spine surgery.

“I thought he was kidding at first when he said a robot would do the surgery,” Vicki said with a laugh. “But he insisted that patients like Christopher recover almost immediately. I honestly thought it all just sounded too good to be true. But the day after surgery, he was moving around comfortably and I could tell his back pain was gone.”

Christopher successfully underwent spine surgery on April 7 and is healing well. 

“The outcome has been truly amazing,” said Vicki. “I really appreciated how Christopher’s care was a team effort by everyone involved. The entire team was just phenomenal.”

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