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Louisville teen’s scoliosis journey highlights importance of child wellness tests

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 5:19 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 7:18 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Many things were missed during the pandemic, but parents who put off their child’s wellness check should not delay it any longer. During those exams, serious issues, like scoliosis, can be spotted.

Allison Tinsley, 13, and her family recently went to Disney World for a special reason to celebrate the teen and how far she’s come. The family learned five years ago that she had scoliosis, so she underwent spinal fusion surgery a year ago.

“It was something randomly caught in an 8-year-old well check,” Deonna Tinsley, Allison Tinsley’s mother, said.

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine. It typically happens in children during a growth spurt just before puberty around 10-14 years old, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Deonna Tinsley said her daughter’s case didn’t start off bad but it got worse over the years.

“One shoulder was higher than the other,” Deonna Tinsley said.

Allison Tinsley said she wore a back brace for 18 hours a day, every day for two years, and she also went to physical therapy, but it was not enough to fix the problem.

“It was an S-curve instead,” the 13-year-old said. “I was in a lot of pain.”

“She would have eventually reached that hump on her back that people will see,” Deonna Tinsley said. “Her spine could have rotated enough to the point where her internal organs could have become suffocated.”

In the end, doctors recommended surgery for Allison Tinsley.

“They put metal rods and screws all throughout my spine and it thankfully straightened it out,” Allison Tinsley said. “It has changed my life.”

Allison Tinsley said she has improved significantly and can return to playing volleyball. She also said she received letters from other young people who have scoliosis. However, the situation could have been much worse if she hadn’t gone to her wellness check five years ago.

“It reminds me that I’m not alone and I’m not the only person been through it,” Allison Tinsley said. “I know people love me for who I am.”

Doctors are worried about the impact of the pandemic on children who haven’t visited their doctors at crucial milestones like Allison Tinsley.

“We are seeing a lot of that this year people now coming back to see us for different things that maybe would be better treated a year ago,” Dr. Joshua Meier, an orthopedic surgeon with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville, said. “The adolescent group is that they are growing very rapidly and that is when scoliosis wants to progress very rapidly. Ideally, you would think as you grow it maybe straightens out but, unfortunately, it doesn’t do that it worsens typically.”

Oftentimes, scoliosis cases are mild with a few symptoms, Meier said. One thing parents can look out for is having a child bend forward in front of them so you can look at their back to see if their back is rotated one way or the other. Meier said if one side of their ribs is higher or one shoulder is higher, that can be a clue.

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