Ingrid's story

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How life-changing scoliosis surgery gave Ingrid the opportunity to get back to the activities she loved

Ingrid and her mother Lotte were completely unaware of any problems with Ingrid's back, until Lotte asked Ingrid to sit up straight and Ingrid replied saying that she already was. Fast forward less than three months and Ingrid was undergoing complex, life-changing spinal surgery under the care of Mr Colin Nnadi at The Portland Hospital. Here Ingrid, now aged 15, and her mother share their story and explain why this surgery was so important.

Noticing a difference in posture

Ingrid’s mum Lotte first noticed something was wrong with her daughter's posture whilst on holiday. She begins: “It was back in August 2019 and I was applying sunscreen to Ingrid’s back when I noticed she wasn't sitting straight and her right shoulder was looking crooked. I asked her to straighten up, which she was unable to do and in her mind she thought that she was sitting normally. I decided to call my GP and booked an appointment with them once we got back to the UK.

Though Lotte was surprised to notice that something was not quite right with Ingrid’s posture, Ingrid had been experiencing mild pain. “I had been feeling a bit of pain in my back and shoulders for a little while, but I thought it might have been growing pains or that I’d hurt it somehow. I also felt that I was leaning a little to one side during horse-riding, but I didn’t really worry about it.” said Ingrid, who was 14 years old at the time. 

Once they were back on home soil, Ingrid was referred for an MRI on her spine which suggested she had scoliosis, a condition where the spine is curved abnormally when viewed from the front or the back. It can lead to the trunk or the shoulders no longer being symmetrical and can make the body look misaligned. The severity of the abnormality can vary between people and can change with time. Needing specialist care, the family chose to see Mr Colin Nnadi, Consultant Spinal Surgeon at The Portland Hospital. 

Book an appointment to see Mr Colin Nnadi, 

Quick progession

After her first consultation with Mr Nnadi, he was able to confirm that Ingrid had idiopathic adolescent scoliosis, and that the curve was already at almost 60 degrees, meaning that surgery was the best option. “Even though Ingrid’s condition seemed aggressive and the operation he suggested complex, Mr Nnadi explained to us that he performs these kinds of operations every day and the improvements that he is able to make to a patient’s quality of life is huge. Three weeks after we had our first consultation with him, Ingrid was booked in for spinal surgery at The Portland Hospital.” said Lotte.

The surgery which Mr Nnadi recommended for Ingrid was spinal fusion – a major operation where the spine is straightened using metal rods, screws, hooks or wires to correct the curve. These are usually left in place permanently. 

Asked about how Ingrid felt before surgery, she commented: “I was quite surprised when the surgery was booked in so soon after seeing Mr Nnadi, but it did mean that I didn’t have lots of time to worry about what was going to happen which was good. Mr Nnadi was so good at explaining everything to me and my parents, so I felt quite calm before having the surgery.” 

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The day of Ingrid's surgery

While there was some nervousness before the op, the nursing team put Lotte and Ingrid at ease:

Lisa, Sue, Deborah and Dorothy were so fabulous, making us feel calm and reassured throughout the entire journey, they were real angels – the whole team were.

Ingrid’s surgery was five hours long – it was a tense five hours and I was particularly worried about the very small risk of some kind of paralysis as they are operating so close to the nerves - I was so incredibly relieved when Mr Nnadi came out of surgery and said that everything was a complete success. Her curve had been reduced from an almost 60-degree angle to just 18 degrees, which was amazing.

On the road to recovery

Whilst her recovery was hindered slightly by lack of movement due to unexpectedly low potassium levels post-operation, this was quickly remedied by Mr Nnadi and her recovery went on an upward trajectory from there. Lotte added: “I couldn’t believe how quickly she recovered after that initial setback; just four days after surgery she was able to get up, move around and walk up a flight of stairs and by Friday she was discharged.

Ingrid was equally thrilled with her recovery: “I was surprised how quickly I could move around and my pain levels were kept under control which was a great help. But the best part for me was being measured after surgery. I had grown 4cm in height which I was so excited about.” 

In the six weeks after Ingrid left hospital, whilst it was mostly smooth sailing, she did have some complications as her wound became irritated and a few of the stitches came apart and she also reacted badly to her painkillers. However, what Ingrid and her parents really appreciated was how quick and efficient The Portland Hospital aftercare team were. Lotte adds: “Whenever I called The Portland, no matter what time of day or night, the team or Mr Nnadi responded quickly to my concerns and made sure Ingrid was seen and taken care of, which I thought was fantastic. Even though I was caring for her at home alone, I felt supported.

While Ingrid was able to move well after the surgery, the recovery to get back to normal activities needed to be steady, as the bone takes time to fuse. Lotte adds: “Mr Nnadi said that the best thing for Ingrid would be to start walking and gradually increase the number of steps she takes every day. This is good not just for the body, but the brain too and it adjusts to the new alignment.

“The recovery was slow but steady. She wasn’t allowed to do sports for a while after surgery, and when she was able to be in school, she would have to leave class early to avoid busy periods in the corridor and could only carry a pencil case and water. COVID-19 then disrupted her recovery a little bit, as in the time where she was advised to start swimming and lift small weights to increase activity levels, this couldn’t happen as gyms and leisure centres were closed.”

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Getting back to the things she loves

Now, over a year and a half since her surgery, Ingrid is thrilled that things have started to open up again and normality can resume. She adds: “Now the restrictions have eased, I’m so excited to be able to play football and return to horse-riding again – I've missed it so much!” 

Mum Lotte adds: “It really is amazing to see how far Ingrid has come and the difference the surgery has made and we’re eternally grateful to Mr Nnadi and his team. I sometimes even forget that she’s had the operation, it’s so wonderful to see how happy she is!

Book an appointment to see Mr Colin Nnadi

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