Valley spine surgeon cuts 19-year-old's spine in half to alleviate constant pain

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PHOENIX -- Skylar Skousen is quite the trooper. At the age of 19, he has already undergone eight surgeries and is gearing up for number nine. His most recent operation was two years ago and was intended to correct scoliosis.

It worked, but left his back too straight and pitching forward. That position has caused him social insecurities and excruciating pain, making even everyday tasks like showering difficult.

All of that is about to change thanks to the skilled hands of Dr. Michael Chang. Chang is one of the few spine surgeons in the world trained to fix this type of problem. He’ll literally cut Skylar’s back in half, remove vertebrae, and reconnect it using rods and screws.

“On the spectrum of spine surgery, there’s small minimally invasive ‘Band-Aid’ surgery with very little risk associated with it, all the way up to surgery like this, which is about as big as it gets,” Chang explained.

Skylar and his family are naturally a little nervous about the operation, but excited for the outcome.

“I really want to lift weights and get in shape,” Skylar said.

His mom said she’s excited to everyone look at him for his height, not his posture. That’s because at 7 feet tall, he stands out, and will gain an inch after the operation.

Skylar’s recovery from the procedure, which takes between six and 12 hours, will take between six months and a year. We’ll catch up with him when he feels well enough and we’ll let you know how he’s doing.

Chang, who is known for performing life-altering surgeries most other medical specialist’s won’t touch, will be featured on the TV show “The Doctors” on Wednesday for surgeries like the one Skylar underwent Thursday.

Chang is part of the medical team at Sonoran Spine Center and specializes in all diseases and disorders of the spine.