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Soon after Megan Ellegood discovered she was pregnant, the then-Trimble County High School student also found out her son had spina bifida, a birth defect.
At 24 weeks into her pregnancy, her son, Dakota, now 10, had his first surgery to close his spinal column. It was only the 89th time specialists at Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., had performed the surgery, Ellegood said. Since then, Dakota has undergone more than 30 surgeries and was scheduled for another Tuesday, Nov. 30, to adjust the growth bar in his back to help correct his scoliosis – a condition that sometimes accompanies spina bifida. Dakota must have this procedure done every three to six months.
Despite the surgeries, Ellegood said Dakota’s doctors expect him to live a full, healthy life.
On Friday, Nov. 19, the Raiders and Lady Raiders hosted the first Blue/Gold Scrimmage to open the 2010-11 basketball season. Donations were taken at the door and collected at school; a total $600 was presented to Ellegood and her family before the start of the boys’ scrimmage game. Principal Kerrie Stewart, the Lady Raiders head coach, and Bob Lauster, the boys head coach, are hoping to make it an annual fund-raiser for the community.
“It’s unbelievable,” Ellegood said after accepting the money from seniors Justin Webb and Raegan Black. “I knew Trimble County was a good community, but wow.”
Folic acid helps prevent birth defect
According to the Spina Bifida Association, the birth defect prevents a baby’s spinal column from closing all the way. Severity ranges from mild, in which a child may have no symtoms, to severe, in which a child has nerve damage that can impair mobility and gastrointestinal processes. Scientists don’t know the exact cause, but believe it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. But folic acid – a vitamin that helps with growth – taken before and during pregnancy is known to significantly help prevent the defect, according to SpinaBifidaAssociation.org.
Ellegood said she has been to the school to talk to the female students about the importance of including folic acid in their diets, even though it may be years before they plan to have children. She said that studies show women must take the supplement for at least a month before they become pregnant and for at least the first three months of pregnancy.
That means, to be safe, women should take folic acid throughout their childbearing years.
The SBA recommends 400 mcgs of folic acid daily; any woman with a family history of the disease should increace that to 4,000 mcgs (or 4 mg) of folic acid daily.