Scoliosis Week to reduce time off school for teens across Norfolk
A group of teenagers from across Norfolk have been taking part in seminars and meeting up with their doctors to prepare themselves for potentially life-changing surgery.
The link that brings all of these teenagers together is that they all have a form of scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty.
Scoliosis week at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) aims to complete surgeries for these young-people in the school holiday so patients and parents do not miss time from education and work. The intention is for the patients to miss as little of important school time as possible (in line with the NHS charter where hospitals should deliver care which is convenient to the patient).
Isobel Lyall, daughter of Hamish and Stephanie, is to go through the surgery to readjust and straighten her spine. Isobel suffers from a variant of scoliosis called Scheuermann’s disease which usually causes the abnormal growth of the thoracic (upper back) vertebrae, but can also be found in the lumbar vertebrae. When asked their thoughts on Scoliosis Week, her father Hamish said: “I’ve never come across anything quite like this in the medical field. The whole process is really thorough, gives you more confidence and makes you feel far more comfortable.”
“Naturally, as parents, your child having Scheuermann’s can cause you a bit of anxiety. This sort of process [Scoliosis week] takes away some of the nerves about it. It just helps prepare you a bit more for what’s going to happen.”
“The idea of Scoliosis Week is a really good idea. The timing really does put the child first.”
Isobel’s mother, Stephanie, expanded: “There’s a notable focus by all of the team to make it relatable to the age-range. They’re pitching it at the right level.”
“The film that the hospital has produced is brilliant too. As a teenager, you couldn’t feel more informed.”
You can find the film that Stephanie is referring to at: www.nnuh.nhs.uk/news/2016/12/new-scoliosis-patient-video-makes-its-debut
One of the huge benefits that Isobel has noticed to the week is the community-feel and friendships she’s made with other people her age going through the exact same things as her. Isobel has been instant-messaging Daisy Norton, a previous patient during Scoliosis Week, and sees the benefit of being able to do this.
Daisy came to speak to everybody during a seminar on 28 June to let everybody know that everything will be fine. Her speech was intended to make the surgery and process more relatable to her fellow teens.
Daisy was diagnosed with scoliosis back in 2011 when she was just 9-years-old. She wore a brace 23 hours a day, 7 days a week for 3 years until 2014. Two years later, Daisy had her surgery just a week before she broke up for her summer break, on 13 July, at the age of just 14-years-old.
Despite the surgery, Daisy was still able to go to the South of France with her friends and family two weeks later and said she got back to feeling normal relatively quickly, although a little more tired than usual.
Daisy said that one of her favourite parts about the surgery was that it added nine centimetres to her height which she had great fun teasing her younger brothers about. Along with the increase in height, Daisy also said she now had a genuinely good excuse not to take part in P.E. for most of the year.
The positivity of Scoliosis Week has sparked a keen interest in medicine for Daisy and is now something she’s seriously considering taking up a career in when she leaves school. Her mother explained: “I think being so well informed about the process of the condition and what was going to happen to her is what really made her interested in medicine.”
Am Rai, Orthopaedic and Spinal Surgery Consultant at the hospital, is leading up the Scoliosis Week drive. He said: “We are very keen to improve children services in East Anglia. There was a significant move from the Trust to improve facilities and we are hoping there will be a paediatric high dependency unit to look after patients having major operations. This would ensure that we are able to keep children’s services within the NNUH which prevents families travelling away from their local hospital.
We have been recognised nationally for this initiative and this model has been copied by other units across the country. It makes sense to offer patients treatment at times that are convenient to them as this limits time off school. I am extremely grateful for the hospital, all the other specialists and my colleagues in being able to deliver this service.”
If you’d like to learn more about Scoliosis Week or any of the services that NNUH offers, you can do so at www.nnuh.nhs.uk