Living with scoliosis
can be an ordeal even in the best circumstances, but managing a spinal curve while simultaneously going through puberty and striving to stay on top of schoolwork is a challenging feat indeed. Unfortunately, since most cases of idiopathic scoliosis develop during adolescence, many young people are forced to learn how to live with scoliosis just as they’re also trying to navigate the general turbulence that tends to accompany one’s teenage years.
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we’ve helped countless teenagers and pre-teens to manage their scoliosis and achieve a higher quality of life. Today, we’d like to share the story of a young woman from Cardiff named Louiselle, who came to our clinic for treatment around ten years ago. Back then, Louiselle was an intelligent, high-achieving 14-year-old girl who was suffering enormously due to her dramatically curved spine.
Photo of Louiselle by David Hurst (originally published in the Western Mail, 10 September 2007)
Louiselle’s scoliosis first began to assert itself when she was just 9 years old. Unfortunately, doctors misdiagnosed her early symptoms, dismissing her pains as ‘growing pains’ and incorrectly attributing her compromised breathing to asthma. When Louiselle hit puberty, things got even worse: she experienced heavy, painful menstruation and a dramatic reduction in her ability to take part in activities such as swimming and running. She was eventually diagnosed with scoliosis when she visited the doctor for a minor chest infection, but this diagnosis sadly did not signal the end of Louiselle’s suffering.
At the age of 14, Louiselle was admitted to hospital, where an X-ray revealed the true severity of her spinal curve:
Soon afterwards, she was told that the best course of action would be to wait for another 6 months, then go back to the hospital for a surgical procedure that would involve the removal of several ribs and the insertion of metal rods into her spine. This is a terrifying prospect for anyone, let alone a 14-year-old, but Louiselle was not offered any alternative.
As time passed, Lousielle’s severe abdominal pain continued to worsen. She became addicted to painkillers, and was bullied in school for her increasing reliance on medication. To make matters even more desperate, medical professionals often dismissed her symptoms entirely, suggesting that she was simply ‘making a fuss’. At one point, Louiselle was referred to a psychologist in the hope that this would help her to overcome her ‘imaginary’ pain.
And then, one day, a glimmer of light appeared at the end of the tunnel. Louiselle’s mother was watching BBC Breakfast one morning when she witnessed this interview with Erika Maude, founder of the Scoliosis SOS Clinic:
Not long after that, Louiselle and her mum arrived at our clinic, which at the time was located in Suffolk
. Lousielle was desperately hoping that our exercise-based treatment would help to relieve her suffering and enable her to live well without the need for surgical intervention; not only was the pain practically unbearable at this point, she was also missing a lot of school time (and just before her GCSEs!) in order to get treated.
Fortunately, this last-ditch attempt to beat scoliosis was not in vain. Here is what Louiselle looked like before and after her 4-week course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic:
Here’s what Louiselle had to say after completing her scoliosis treatment course:
“Scoliosis SOS were able to explain all my symptoms. They could sympathise with me, and I really felt I was around people who could related to my experiences! After my trip to the Clinic, my legs now feel like they’re the same length. I am walking straighter and taller, and – importantly – I don’t feel like the freak that the surgeons made me feel like before. The way I was seeing myself was that image of a twisted spine: completely wrong.”
Scoliosis SOS helped Louiselle to achieve a better posture, kick the painkillers, and see her own body in a far more positive way – and all without surgery! Back in Cardiff, Louiselle’s story was featured in two local newspapers (the South Wales Echo and the Western Mail), and Louiselle herself went on to earn a degree in psychology. She still comes back to see us every so often – she even appeared alongside Erika on BBC Breakfast in 2010 – and we were overjoyed to learn that she is now set to embark upon a career that will see her helping people just like her younger self to live with scoliosis.
If you or a loved one suffer from scoliosis and you’re looking for an alternative to spinal fusion surgery, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic may be able to help. Click here to arrange a consultation.