• Scoliosis x-ray

Scoliosis Surgery Corrects Hazel Crest Teen’s Spine Curvature

When then 14-year-old Lauren Clay and her mom were alerted to a curvature in Lauren’s spine during her high school physical in 2013, they were concerned, but not overly so.

In fact, the condition was minor enough that it didn’t even warrant a back brace. She visited her spine specialist every six months as a precaution.

But as time passed, Lauren noticed her clothes weren’t fitting right. “My right hip stuck out further than my left, and my right back bone under the shoulder blade also looked out of alignment,” she recalls. “It looked like I wasn’t standing straight.”

Then the back pain started, especially when she bent down to pick something up.

Late last year, when the pain became worse, Lauren’s mom Venus made an emergency appointment. That’s when they discovered Lauren had a spine curvature of nearly 50 degrees. A back brace was now out of the question; scoliosis surgery was the only solution. She was referred to spinal surgeon Srinu Kusuma, M.D., who specializes in scoliosis surgery.

“Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to rotate and curve sideways,” Dr. Kusuma explains. “While there are several different types, the most common is ‘idiopathic,’ which means the exact cause is not known.”

It’s estimated that 7 million Americans have the condition; most cases occur between the ages of 10 and the time a child is fully grown. Girls are diagnosed with the condition twice as often as boys, and once a child hits a growth spurt during puberty, the most obvious signs are tilted, uneven shoulders, prominence of the ribs on one side, an uneven waistline and one hip higher than the other. Up to a third of all diagnosed cases are hereditary.

But that wasn’t the case with Lauren, who has two older sisters who have never had the disorder. After meeting with Dr. Kusuma, they scheduled surgery for June of this year, after Lauren completed her sophomore year of high school so she could have the summer to recover.

“I was really nervous about the surgery,” Lauren admits. “I’d never been in the hospital before, but Dr. Kusuma was really helpful and gave me a great website to look at (www.srs.org) to get more information and read about others who had the surgery.”

Lauren Clay in band uniform

On June 12 of this year, Lauren underwent spinal fusion surgery at Ingalls. Dr. Kusuma used titanium rods and screws to realign Lauren’s spinal bones and bone graft between the vertebrae to be fused. Over time, the bones fuse together, similar to when a broken bone heals.

Following surgery, Lauren spent six days at Ingalls, regaining her strength and mobility with the help of physical therapists. By the time she went home, she was walking on her own, but was told to avoid bending, lifting or twisting for up to a year while the fusion healed — not an easy task for an active teen.

“No ‘BLT’s,’ they told me,” she remembers with a grin. Though she has to sit out marching band and track this year, she looks forward to both her senior year.

In the meantime, the very bright Homewood- Flossmoor high school junior enjoys her classes — especially math, science and engineering.

Most of all, she’s glad her appearance is back to normal. Her spine is straight, and her hips are even.

“She’s gotten a lot better,” Venus adds. “Dr. Kusuma was really open throughout it all. He’s there whenever we need him.”

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