When longtime friends Tosha LoSurdo and Jessica Rohrick became pregnant with girls in 2015, they couldn’t wait to talk infant clothes, nursery decorations and baby books — but the they never expected to bond over a startling hip condition affecting both of their daughters.
Carmela LoSurdo, now 10 months old, and Phallon Rohrick, now 9 months old, were born with hip dysplasia, a developmental dislocation problem that can lead to hip deformities and trouble walking if left untreated.
“Everything was new and intimidating to us,” LoSurdo, 38, tells PEOPLE. “My doctor encouraged me to find a support group, and I found one on Facebook but then Jess became my support group! We comfort each other and help each other stay positive.”
“We were in the same boat and there was some comfort in that,” Rohrick, 37, adds.
LoSurdo, a market researcher for Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Rohrick, a full-time mom, met 15 years ago at a local restaurant in downtown Boston where they worked as servers. The two became fast friends hanging out after work and, though they eventually moved out of the city center, stayed in touch through social media.
“She’s such a great wit and the restaurant crew became like family, we would go and get wine together,” says LoSurdo. “We had so much fun together it was lighthearted.
“So when Carmela and Phallon both had this serious hip condition, it brought us even closer.”
Carmela was diagnosed with hip dysplasia within 24 hours of being born and a treatment plan was quickly cemented for the newborn at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“We put her in what is called a Pavlik harness,” Carmela’s surgeon, Dr. Eduardo Novais of Boston Children’s Hospital tells PEOPLE. “Her case was the most severe kind of hip dysplasia, because her entire hip was dislocated.”
The harness was unsuccessful, and so doctors tried a hip abduction brace for 12 weeks. The improvement was immediate.
“Six months after that, she was brace and harness free!” says LoSurdo. “We’ll take her in for checkups, but she’s doing great.”
Rohrick had been following Carmela’s journey on social media in the days leading up to her own daughter’s birth.
“So when doctors told me Phallon had hip dysplasia, I knew exactly who to turn to for support and she helped me ask the right questions to doctors,” she says. “Tosha told me, ‘This is going to be so hard on you, because it will be hard to bond with your baby when she’s in a harness, but she’ll thank you when she’s older.’ “
The new moms chatted daily about the harnesses their daughter’s were wearing and best practices for diaper chanigng and feeding.
“It was a difficult time, but we got through it together,” says Rohrick.
Adds LoSurdo: “There were fears about what would happen down the road. I tried to check in and ask how her appointments went. Those little things adds a bright spot in what you’re going through. Sometimes its easy to get bogged down in the stress of something like this.
“But we’re both the kind of women that approach a problem head on and keep going with life.”
The friends checked in with each other constantly as their daughters progressed. After four weeks in a Pavlik harness, Phallon’s hips were relocated and she was given the clear by Boston Children’s doctors to remove the brace.
“When parenting you can read the books and look up information online, but having a friend you can lean on and that knows what you’re going through is really something,” says Rohrick. “And finally both of our girls were free of the harness! We’re both so grateful.”
LoSurdo and Rohrick now get their healthy baby daughters together for playdates “all the time” at Boston’s public library and the children’s museum.
“We hope they can become friends when they grow up!’ says LoSurdo. “I’m closer with Jess because of this and we hope it will bring our daughter’s closer together when they get older.”