When he was born, it was clear that Ethan Tatlock had his dad’s eyes—brown with a slight blue tint to the white part. What the family didn’t know was that the father and son shared something else very rare—osteogenesis imperfecta.
Commonly known as brittle bone disease, osteogenesis imperfecta, or OI, is a group of inherited disorders that affect how the body makes collagen, a protein that helps strengthen bones. When the body doesn’t produce enough, it can cause fragile bones, hearing issues and a blue tint to the sclera, or white part, of the eye.
Scott Tatlock broke a few bones as a kid, but it wasn’t until he was 34—when his son Ethan was just 3 months old—that he underwent surgery to fix a heart murmur and his ribs started cracking. An X-ray showed dozens of fractures in various stages of healing throughout his body.
Scott, wife Rexanna and baby Ethan were living in Peoria, Ill., at the time. Still, they sought out the Bone Dysplasia Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, which treats both children and adults since it’s one of the few hospital clinics in the country with OI specialists.
Doctors wanted to examine Ethan as well, and the family was just weeks from that appointment when Ethan, then nearly 2, suffered a traumatic femur fracture. He was transported to Riley, where he had his first surgery with Riley Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Randall T. Loder, M.D.
“That’s when we really knew that Ethan had OI, and it was hard,” Rexanna remembers. “Here he was a toddler, and he had to be in a cast from the chest down. They cut a hole where we put his diaper in, and then we had to actually duct tape it on. It was challenging.”
Over the next few years, Ethan suffered 13 more fractures, and the family moved to Lafayette, Ind., to be closer to Riley and to family. Those important Indiana relatives include Ethan’s grandmother, Glena Engleking, who works for Walmart, a Riley corporate partner that celebrates 30 years of fundraising through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals this year.
With regular infusions of drugs aimed at increasing bone mass, Ethan has now been fracture free for nearly two years. “He’s done really well,” reports Riley Pediatric Endocrinologist Erik Imel, M.D. “His bone density has improved, and he’s responding well to the medicines.”
Ethan, a quiet 7-year-old with a passion for video games, the outdoors and his pets, has also grown more comfortable visiting the clinic. “I like to ride in the wagons a lot,” Ethan says. “I watch YouTube Kids and Minecraft videos, and I get to pick out a snack and play with toys, like Hot Wheels.”
Between back-to-back diagnoses, multiple surgeries and a move to Indiana, the last few years have been a time of change and growth for the entire Tatlock family. “It’s been a journey. We love Riley because they were able to diagnose what so many had missed,” says Rexanna. “As parents, you want the best for your whole family, and we have that here.”