Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Monroe Carell Jr.
Children's Hospital
at Vanderbilt
2200 Children's Way
Nashville, TN 37232

(615) 936-1000

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Meet Brandon

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By Jeremy Rush

Brandon Jolly is a thoughtful and stoic 14-year-old who likes to fish, bike and hike like other boys his age. Hampered by scoliosis, Brandon and his family recently made the decision to undergo "halo-gravity traction" leading up to spinal fusion surgery to correct his spine. 

He also has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. It is a lifelong disorder that varies in severity and complications.

Since July of this year, Brandon has been outfitted with a halo device, which is a ring-shaped brace surgically pinned to his head and supported by a weighted pulley system. It lifts the pressure off of his spine, allowing it to begin correcting itself.

"It's really a process to reverse the negative effects of gravity on the spine," says Gregory Mencio, M.D., professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. "The body is the counterweight, and a stack of weights attached to the halo provide distractive forces to the spine to allow safe, gradual correction of the spinal deformity." 

It was a tough decision for the family from Elizabethton, Tenn., but Brandon says that he was ready. 

"I wasn't nervous to do it," said Brandon, who proudly explains that he's grown several inches - with the halo's help - during his time at Children's Hospital.

His mother, Debbie Jolly, says she's seen a complete transformation in her son. 

"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," she says. "I mean, his back has changed so much, and he even breaths better while he's in traction."

Brandon likes to tinker with electronics and his favorite subject in school is math, so it wasn't a surprise when he began working with pediatric resident Christopher Gordon, M.D., to find a way to start walking again. Brandon helped design a swiveling pulley system that transformed his wheelchair into a makeshift walker. It allows him to easily switch from sitting to standing while remaining in the halo traction.

He's now able to roam the halls of Children's Hospital, and enjoys the many activities that the Child Life staff hosts for patients, including Bingo Night and special performances at the stage on the Second Floor of the hospital. 

Brandon has even become a favorite among other patients, acting as a mentor to two younger children with halo devices.  They can be seen in the playrooms together or playing hide-and-seek on the outdoor terrace, with Brandon quietly leading the way.

"When I walk around on my rounds, he is hardly in his room," says Mencio.  "Whether he's watching a movie or off playing cards, he's really just a normal kid making the best of this temporary situation.  He's very determined to figure out his own way to do things."

With surgery right around the corner, Brandon admits that he is a little nervous, but ready to get back home-back to his collection of more than 400 Hot Wheels collectible cars, and back to biking and hiking and just being a kid. 


Brandon's spinal fusion surgery went as planned on Wednesday, Sept. 7, and he is recovering well. The halo device has been removed (which Brandon was allowed to keep), and doctors hope he'll be able to go home soon. 

The family says he plans to keep in touch with the many friends he's made along the way, and they are thankful to the nursing staff and others who have made their stay comfortable and enjoyable.

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