Just before 18-year-old Hannah left for a graduation event she paused and turned with her back facing her mother, Hazel. There she stood, smiling over her shoulder; a picture-perfect moment captured by her mother. Through the straps of her graduation dress a scar is visible, running from her neck to the base of her spine.
Now, barely noticeable, the scar is the only indication of what Hannah went through nearly four years earlier. At that time, the then 14-year-old was an active teen who played softball and enjoyed writing, music and theatre. But there was pain, persistent pain. Hazel also noticed her daughter's left shoulder was slightly higher than her right shoulder and in a matter of weeks Hannah’s hips also became unaligned.
It was clear to Hannah’s family that there was more going on than an adolescent growth spurt, and so she was booked in for her first X-ray at BC Children’s Hospital in summer 2013. Days later the family returned to the hospital to go over results. Hannah was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, a form of scoliosis where doctors are unable to find an exact explanation for a curved spine.
“My curvature was within surgical range and so we were told that surgery was an option,” said Hannah. “Without surgery there was a good chance my scoliosis could become more severe and lead to more pain and further complications.”
With information provided by the Orthopaedics team at BC Children’s, Hannah, along with her family, made the decision to move forward with surgery.
On August 20, 2014, BC Children’s Dr. Firoz Miyanji performed a nine-hour surgery on Hannah. During the surgery Hannah had two steel rods inserted into her spine. Both rods were reinforced by several screws to keep them in place.
"Hannah's scoliosis was progressive and reached magnitudes of 68 and 73 degrees,” said Dr. Miyanji. “Her focus and determination helped her to a speedy and uncomplicated recovery. It has been nothing less than an absolute pleasure being involved in her care."
Following her surgery, a team of nurses and physiotherapists supported her on her journey back to health. “The team at BC Children’s helped me to sit and stand again and eventually things got easier,” said Hannah.
After six days at the hospital, Hannah was sent home where she would spend the next four weeks focusing on small milestones—going up-and-down stairs, walking to the living room and then finally outside—every day going a little further. As the season changed and September came to an end, Hannah was well enough to go back to school.
In June 2016, Hazel captured that picture-perfect moment of Hannah in her graduation dress; a dress Hannah says she would not have worn if it wasn’t for her surgery.
“Because of your great work my daughter was able to wear a beautiful dress to a graduation event—your work hardly visible!” said Hazel, of the work done by Dr. Miyanji.
Today, Hannah is studying at the University of British Columbia with plans to major in history and English. She recently began to play softball again and is also a member of UBC’s improv theatre team.
Hannah shares her progress one month post-surgery.
BC Children’s Orthopaedics Clinic provides general pediatric orthopaedic services and offers specialized clinics for children with scoliosis and spinal deformities, neuromuscular diseases, leg length discrepancies, musculoskeletal oncology and traumas.