Patient Stories

COL(R) Kathleen A. McHale, MD, MSEd

When their daughter Molly complained of back pain several years ago, Dana and Rob knew just where to turn: Kathleen McHale, MD, a pediatric orthopedist at OrthoVirginia. Dr. McHale had successfully treated two of Molly’s siblings for significant orthopedic issues and Dana trusted her expertise. “Even though Molly’s symptoms were vague, I didn’t hesitate,” Dana recalls. “I went straight to Dr. McHale.” 

Many years earlier, Dr. McHale had diagnosed valgus hindfoot in Dana’s son Michael and performed a surgical procedure called to correct the problem.In this technique, the surgeonmakes a small incision on the outside of the foot. The hindfoot is placed in a corrected position, and a simple staple is used to hold the foot in place. The child’s foot is allowed to grow; the subtalar joint corrects over time without compromise to the joint surface. Dr. McHale removed Michael’s staples after 12 months. Michael is now an active teenager who swims, skis, and plays basketball and lacrosse. 

Dana next consulted Dr. McHale when her eldest daughter Caitlin’s knees appeared uneven.Clinical appearance and standing X-rays showed that one of her knees had more angulation than the other. Again, Dr. McHale recommended a simple surgical fix. A small, two-hole plate was inserted to span the growth plate on the inside (medial portion) of the knee on the affected side. The hardware slows the bone’s growth on the medial side until the other side catches up and the knee straightens.Dana was on board. “We could let it ride and hope it straightened out with more growth, but the long-term effects could be knee or back pain or other issues that would require major surgery,” she says. “This was an easy solution that worked beautifully.” Caitlin’s knees are now equally straight and the Bishop Ireton student is back to all the activities she loves, including lacrosse and swimming.

When Dana brought Molly to Dr. McHale, the diagnosis was scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. Initially, Dr. McHale recommended monitoring the condition, but when it worsened, she suggested that Molly wear a night brace. The results were dramatic and better than expected. The hope was that the brace would keep the curve from getting worse, but in Molly’s case, her spine actuallybegan to straighten. The teencontinues to swim and play lacrosse and basketball at St. Louis Catholic School in Alexandria. 
Dana and Rob feel fortunate that the resources of OrthoVirginia and the expertise of Dr. McHale are available close to home. “They really are pros at keeping us all in the game,” Dana says. “Dr. McHale is brilliant and found the perfect solution for each of our children. She recommended early intervention to avoid future problems. We feel confident they are on the path to a healthy life.”