And after three years of treatment at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, the 16-year-old finally made her glamorous appearance at her school’s prom, after a long treatment for a curved spine.
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When she started treatment, the ball was on her mind.
Olivia, a competitive figure skater, dancer and gymnast, was diagnosed with scoliosis aged 13 after a seamstress and retired theater nurse spotted a curve in her spine during a fitting of dress.
Scoliosis, a condition in which the spine curves to the side and twists, can appear in several ways: a visibly curved spine over one shoulder, a protruding hip, uneven shoulders, or the ribs protruding from one shoulder. side.
Olivia was struggling to find a figure skating dress that fitted well when mum Nicola took her to have a custom dress made as a Christmas present.
Nicola recalls: “The seamstress, Fiona, a retired nurse, noticed Olivia’s spine bent to the side and said she might have scoliosis, so we couldn’t find a dress that suited her. She advised us to go see our GP, who referred Olivia to the team at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. We are forever grateful to Fiona for spotting the early signs of scoliosis.
Olivia was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and prescribed a back brace, which she wore 22-23 hours a day for three years. Early diagnosis is important in the diagnosis and treatment of this type of scoliosis.
For people with scoliosis, if their spinal curve becomes too wide, its appearance can lead to issues with body image and self-esteem, and can lead to back pain and heart and lung problems in adulthood. .
Sheffield Children’s is the UK’s leading center for conservative scoliosis treatment, using some of the most advanced braces available. His team includes spine surgeons, orthotists, physiotherapists, nurses and orthopedic technicians.
How is scoliosis treated?
Wearing a back brace holds the spine in position to prevent the curvature from getting worse and reduces the need for surgery. There are several types of braces used to treat scoliosis – the one Olivia wore is known as a “full-time brace” and is the most common type.
Olivia followed the advice of her spine surgeon, Mr. Lee Breakwell, and two orthotists. She made sure to stay as active as possible while wearing her brace.
Regular dance and gymnastics classes and ice skating workouts not only helped Olivia physically, but also helped her stay mentally positive.
Olivia competed in local and national figure skating competitions, earning podium spots and even placing in the top five skaters in the country at her level.
Olivia shared her experience with other patients. Nicola said: “Soon after Olivia’s diagnosis, she realized how difficult it is for teenagers to wear the corset for so long, the frustration of choosing clothes and the embarrassment it can cause. Olivia met many other teenagers in the clinic and closer to home She shared her motivation and positive mindset and listened to their thoughts, reassuring them She became a scoliosis advocate for Sheffield Children’s, volunteering supporting other young people with the same disease for almost three years.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Olivia has stayed in touch and befriended other patients, chatting over video calls and taking stretching and exercise classes.
Olivia has also been approached by health workers to contribute to an online presentation for scoliosis patients across the country.
Nicola said: “Our main goal was to try to prevent Olivia from needing invasive surgery so she could continue as a figure skater, limit time away from school, but most importantly for the best possible long-term result. Olivia was really disciplined and determined to wear the corset. As a family, we are incredibly proud of her! She was driven by this vision of the future – wearing her ballgown.
Olivia has remained active while wearing the brace, pursuing endurance and fitness classes with her skating coaches virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After three years, in May 2022, Olivia was able to stop wearing the corset – just in time for her prom.
Nicola said: “The prom was an incredibly emotional day. When Olivia tried on the prom dress in the boutique, her spine was perfectly straight. Olivia had achieved what she wanted to achieve, and as a mom, it It was great to see. It’s been a tough few years, but Olivia had that inner strength and she was given the utmost care to get the best result.
“The Sheffield Children’s team have been absolutely amazing. They are 100% committed to achieving the best patient outcomes. Mr Breakwell is wonderful and has a very good behavior with young people. Orthotists Andrew and Matthew had such a thorough approach, and they made Olivia feel like she could be herself by joking with her and listening to her. It’s all part and parcel of his motivation – to have such a motivated and solution-oriented staff.
Surgeon Mr Breakwell said: “Olivia’s commitment and the result of wearing the splint were excellent. As a result, she now has nearly perfect posture and an extremely low risk of her spinal curve progressing into adulthood.
What are the signs of scoliosis?
Mr Breakwell added: ‘Early diagnosis of scoliosis is essential – contact your child’s GP if you spot any signs of uneven shoulders, abnormal waist symmetry or prominent ribs. The best early test for scoliosis is the forward bend, where a child leans forward, aiming to touch their toes. If the spine twists rather than curving forward, they may have scoliosis.
Olivia started her A-levels in September and plans to go to college later. She hopes to work as a clinician in the medical profession in the future.