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Family seeks help for boy's chest problems

Union Leader Correspondent

December 14. 2012 10:14PM
Matthew McKinnon, 13, left, with his brother Shawn, 5. (COURTESY)

SANDOWN - All Matthew McKinnon wants is for the pain to go away, and his chest to be hidden from others.

The 13-year-old Sandown boy was recently diagnosed with pectus carinatum, a condition known as "pigeon breast" where the breast bone and cartilage portion of the ribs protrude.

It's a condition that has caused chest pain, problems at school and worry for his parents, who can't afford to buy him the $1,700 chest brace he needs to correct the problem.

"I hate it," Matthew said of the pain that has only added to his struggles with autism.

He is one of seven children, three of whom have autism, said his father, Joseph McKinnon.

Hoping to treat the condition before it's too late, the McKinnons tried to get financial help to pay for the brace through New Hampshire Medicaid, which provides insurance for the children. However, New Hampshire Medicaid denied their request, saying it didn't meet the program's review criteria.

In a letter dated Nov. 6, the Schaller Anderson Utilization Management Unit, which manages parts of the state's Medicaid program, said it appeared there was "no compromise of any physiologic function involving the heart or lungs so this would be cosmetic rather than medically necessary."

Dr. Robert Shamberger of Children's Hospital Boston asked Medicaid to reconsider in a letter appealing the decision.

"I feel that Matthew would very much benefit from wearing the Nopco brace to help alleviate the pain he is experiencing as well as improve the contour of his chest," he wrote.

A nurse at Timberlane Regional Middle School in Plaistow, where Matthew is a student, also wrote a letter last week explaining how the chest pain has affected his ability to learn because he is distracted by the discomfort.

Matthew began experiencing chest pain a few months ago. His parents feared he had a heart problem and brought him to a local doctor who determined that the condition wasn't life-threatening, McKinnon said.

The boy was then referred to doctors at Children's Hospital Boston.

While it may not be life-threatening, Joseph McKinnon said he worries about the chest pain and the protrusion getting worse as Matthew grows older.

The condition can be corrected by wearing a brace around his chest over the course of a year, McKinnon said. The brace applies pressure to the protruding breast bone and cartilage and allows the chest to develop properly.

McKinnon has now established a fund to raise money for the brace. Checks can be made payable to the "Matthew McKinnon Fund" and can be sent to any TD Bank.

"The longer the battle goes on, the only one that is going to suffer in this situation is Matthew. The faster he gets the brace on the faster he will recover and heal," McKinnon said.

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