Mimi’s story: Scoliosis surgery at 58 degrees

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As 16-year-old Mimi climbed to the top of the giant Slitherine water slide in Dubai’s Atlantis aquaventure park, she had a momentary change of heart. Just three months before, the teenager from Walton on Thames, Surrey, had undergone major back surgery for scoliosis and started the difficult process of recovery. Seconds after her moment of doubt, she was plunging down the slide with her little sister, while their mum Tamara looked on.

Tamara first noticed something wasn't quite right with Mimi’s back during the pandemic, when Mimi was 14. "One of her hips was slightly higher than the other and her shoulder blade stuck out as well." It was Mimi’s dad who spotted the misalignment when she was on the floor watching TV. "She didn’t have any real pain or any other symptoms," says Tamara. "It didn’t look obvious, and we had to wait for an appointment because of Covid, but we never thought it would be that serious."

When they finally got to see the GP, he said it was scoliosis straight away. "It wasn’t the nicest thing to hear," says Mimi, now 17. "It was really frightening actually. I was worried I’d have to have a back operation and that was the one thing I was adamant I didn’t want."

Looking at the treatment options

Mimi’s parents looked for the best private treatment option, and found Mr Lucas, paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at HCA UK’s The Portland Hospital. "I did a lot of research to find him, but weirdly it turned out the consultant who trained him operated on my grandmother, so we got some good information about Mr Lucas."

Mr Lucas and the team at The Portland saw Mimi for a few months, initially exploring conservative treatment options. Mimi was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, or a C-shaped curve, which was measured in the 30s. Any curvature over 10 degrees is generally considered to be scoliosis, although not all need treatment.

"At first we didn’t think they would operate," says Tamara. "In fact, we were looking into having a brace fitted which Mimi was really against! But during the time we were seeing Mr Lucas, her curvature jumped to about 57/58 degrees. She’d had another growth spurt, and that’s when they said 'you've got to have surgery now, there’s no other option'."

This was devastating news for the whole family, who had hoped her scoliosis wouldn’t progress. They were told that Mimi’s condition would continue to worsen as she got older, and along with it, there’d be pain and disfigurement. “It took me a long time to get my head around that one,” says Mimi. "But I realised I had no choice but to go ahead with surgery."

Scoliosis runs in the family and Mimi had relatives who had also suffered from it, so she was aware of how it could affect her in later life. "I got to the point where I just wanted to be done with it all. So even though I was scared at first, I got used to the idea."

Scheduling her surgery

What complicated matters was that Mimi was due to take her GCSEs, so the surgery needed to fit in with her revision schedule and exam dates. Eventually the date was set for early July 2021, just after her last exam.

Mimi remembers it as a time of huge stress. "I was under so much pressure I couldn’t think. Sometimes I’d just be there going 'why me?'." Mimi dealt with the fear and anxiety by talking with a school counsellor and trying to be as open as she could with her mum and best friends.

The surgery experience itself was hard, but Mimi told herself it was temporary, and the result would be worth it. "I’ve never liked being in hospital, but the staff were really good during the challenging moments. Holly the spinal nurse is amazing; she's like breath of fresh air coming in, she really perked you up! " Tamara agrees: "They were all lovely, I found it so reassuring, knowing she was being so well looked after."

Living life after scoliosis surgery

Tamara is now delighted with Mimi’s new straight spine. "She's got just 10 degrees curvature now which is awesome." Mimi is now enjoying her first year of college where she is studying a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Business Studies. She’s looking forward to getting back on the tennis court.

Looking back, Mimi is hugely grateful for the operation and its outcome. "I was so frightened about something going wrong, and now I’m grateful it’s done and it’s all OK - and for all the lovely gifts and food I got sent – especially my super warm Oodie. Definitely the upside of having surgery! "


If you would like to book an appointment with a scoliosis specialist call us 020 3733 5966

Find out more about the orthopaedic services at HCA UK

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