When you look Abby DiCocco, a 13-year-old from Clifton Park, N.Y, it’s hard to believe that the rising eighth grader, avid swimmer and budding triathlete ever had any problems with her spine.
Abby was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was in first grade and had surgery to remove a Chiari malformation, an abnormal meeting between the brain and spinal cord, at Boston Children’s Hospital.
One year after that surgery, Abby’s orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Emans, director of the Boston Children’s Spinal Program, prescribed a brace to treat her scoliosis. However, despite everyone’s best efforts, Abby’s scoliosis progressed as she grew, and her curve reached 65 degrees by age 11.
That’s when Emans suggested a new option — MAGEC surgery. Remote-controlled magnetic rods are surgically implanted into the spine and periodically lengthened to treat early-onset scoliosis. Abby was the first at Boston Children’s to receive this surgery, which reduced her curve from 65 to 10 degrees.
That was two years ago.
Meet Meghan Dwyer — a typical busy high school student who loves field hockey, Disney movies and dance. Like thousands of other Massachusetts middle and high school students, Meghan participated in regular well-child and school screenings for scoliosis. Everything checked out fine.
Early in Meghan’s sophomore year; however, her mother Tricia, a nurse, noticed her daughter’s back appeared a bit crooked. She made an appointment with Dr. Dan Hedequist, an orthopedic surgeon in the Boston Children’s Hospital Spinal Program. “We didn’t think the curve was too bad and were shocked to find out it had progressed to 50 degrees,” recalls Tricia.
With a 50-degree curve, Meghan needed spinal fusion surgery. Less than 1 percent of girls with scoliosis have curves that require surgery, says Hedequist.
The Dwyers scheduled Meghan’s surgery for June 15, 2015, shortly before the end of her sophomore year.
Nearly one year after her surgery, Meghan is brimming with advice for other teens. …
It’s that time of year. As children head off to school every fall, they’ll undergo a series of health screenings. Massachusetts requires public schools to conduct the following screenings: body mass index (or BMI), vision, hearing and scoliosis.
Parents may have many questions:
- When are children screened?
- What’s normal? What’s not?
- How should parents handle results?
Dr. Alexandra Epee-Bounya, from Boston Children’s Primary Care at Martha Eliot, reviews the ins and outs of various school screenings. …
Frustration. Exasperation. Annoyance. Those were some of the emotions that consumed me the first day I wore my brace. Frustrated that a crooked spine was interfering in my happy teenage life, frustrated that I felt restricted from my normal activities, and worst of all, frustrated that the end was nowhere in sight. There was no set duration, no calendar countdown; it seemed like an eternal waiting game.
The initial days, weeks and months with my brace brought physical pain, sleepless nights and feelings of desolation and despair. It was painful to eat, as my stomach would press against the rigid plastic when it expanded. It was agonizing to ride in the car. But like many uncomfortable things, we learn to adjust, adapt and quite honestly, deal.
A couple months after I received my brace, I attended the Passion for Fashion event sponsored by Nordstrom and NOPCO Brace—a fashion show and shopping day for patients with braces. The number of fellow brace wearers shocked me. For months I had felt like the only one. The event opened my eyes—there are actually a lot of kids on this journey. …