Healthwatch 16: Scoliosis

MOOSIC, Pa. -- Maybe you remember the exam you got in school or that physical you're required to have before you can play school sports.

Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, is often found during those routine exams.

We spoke with a young girl who says her experiences with scoliosis made her stronger in more ways than one.

Like a lot of young women, 17-year-old Laurel Stiekes from Moosic is busy. For starters, the Triboro Christian Academy student is a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do.

"I am on the varsity basketball team, soccer team, and cheer team. I do a lot of community service. I'm a four-time Presidential Service Gold Award recipient," Stiekes said.

She also holds the title of USA National Miss Teen.

It was earlier in her pageant days when Laurel's mom happened to notice her back was crooked.

"I was having trouble walking for long periods of time, sitting for long periods of time. I was in pain and didn't know why," she recalled.

It was scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, according to Dr. Meagan Fernandez, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in the Geisinger Health System.

Dr. Fernandez says sometimes small to moderate curves are never caught because they don't necessarily cause pain, and often parents don't notice either.

"Most parents don't see their teenager change, once they're a teenager. It's not like my toddler where you give them a bath every night and you do see their backs until they change into their bathing suits in the summer."

X-rays show what Laurel's spine looked like at diagnosis and after correction.

"I kind of explain it to my patients as when you look at the X-rays, it looks like a 'c' or an 's'-shaped curve, but think of it more like a spiral staircase," said Dr. Fernandez.

Photos show what it looked like after surgery.

"I have two rods and 22 screws in my back," Laurel said.  "I'm taller! I grew two inches in one day!"

Surgery is not always necessary, only for the more extreme cases.

Laurel says she feels stronger than ever.

"I'm happy to be a shoulder to lean on if somebody has a question. What I've been through has been able to help other people," Laurel said.

"She's a tremendous patient with a great outlook on life and a very, very positive attitude," Dr. Fernandez added.

Dr. Fernandez says what causes scoliosis is something that's being heavily researched right now. There are only theories but often there is a hereditary component.

1 Comment

  • Rusty Knyffe

    Lauren, God bless you, sweetie. Tae Kwon Do is a phenomenal activity to get involved with that helps keep muscles supple and strong, and it develops the core strength, as well. Your other activities are just as awesome. Keep up that tremendous positive outlook – the world needs can-do examples and you are a true hero.

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