A youngster became a couple of inches taller overnight after having a major operation to make her stand straight.
Katy Cook was diagnosed “by chance” with scoliosis, a condition which causes the abnormal twisting and curvature of the spine, after her mum Andrea noticed one of her shoulder blades was severely protruding.
By the time the 12-year-old from Prestatyn was sent down to theatre more than a year later, her spine was curved by 85 degrees.
She needed two titanium rods and 20 screws to straighten her crooked back but, when she stepped out of bed two days after surgery, Katy was more than two inches taller.
Andrea said Katy’s diagnosis in January last year was a “pure fluke” as, while visiting a relative in hospital in Manchester, they asked a nurse to have a look at her shoulder.
The mum-of-three said: “I noticed Katy’s shoulder was sticking out quite a lot and she seemed to have the shape of a lung in her back.
“While we were visiting her nanny in hospital, I just happened to mention it to one of the nurses and asked if she could have a look.
“As soon as she saw it, she told us to go to A&E straight away.
Katy's X-rays before and after surgery
“The doctor there asked her to bend over and drop her head and all her spine came up on one side.
“They knew there and then that she had scoliosis and said she needed an urgent referral.”
The family had to wait months to be seen and even then Andrea said they had to “fight” for follow-up appointments to progress Katy’s treatment.
Meanwhile, the youngster’s spine was getting worse and she was in lots of pain until she was eventually referred to specialists at Gobowen, who transferred her to Alder Hey after an MRI scan.
“The specialists said an operation needed to be done within six months, because there was a risk her bones would start crushing her organs and her rib cage had already moved right around by then,” said Andrea.
“She had nothing on the left hand side of her back.
Katy Cook standing tall at home after the operation
“Two weeks before the operation, the curve was 81 degrees and progressing at two degrees a week.
“By the time she went down to surgery on March 11, it was 85 degrees, and she needed to have two titanium rods and 20 screws inserted into her spine.
“She was in hospital for six days but was up and about on the second day, as she was so determined to get out of bed.
“She’s so brave and hasn’t complained once. She’s been an absolute star.”
Katy’s spine could take up to a year to fuse but she should make a full recovery.
Andrea said: “It’s like scaffolding, and now all her muscles will have to do the work of dragging the rest of her body straight.
“She has to go back to hospital in three months so they can see how she’s getting on.
“It was heartbreaking watching her in front of the mirror looking at her crooked body and trying to correct herself but she couldn’t.
“If one more family can be spared all of this, then I’d be happy, as it’s so easy to find.”
Amy Johnson, 20, was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was in year seven
The university student has a mechanical rod in her back to straighten her spine
A car accident in 2015 jolted the screws in her back so she'll need more surgery
Daily tasks leave her with intense pain so she's looking forward to the operation
The Sydney-based performing arts student has suffered from the debilitating curve in her spine since year seven.
Miss Johnson was attending Newtown Performing Arts school when her back began to feel sore. Her mum put it down to her busy dancing and swimming schedule but when the pain persisted they consulted a doctor.
'It was then I found out I had a curve of 27 degrees. My whole back looked like an "s" shape. I had to wear a brace in year eight and nine, kind of like a corset, to try and straighten my spine.
Amy Johnson, 20, has severe scoliosis that was partially fixed by inserting a metal rod and screws into her back
The dancer shows what her back was like before (pictures on the left) and what it looked like post-surgery (pictured on the right)
'You can't eat with the brace on because it presses on your stomach, and I couldn't dance with it on either, so I wasn't able to wear it as much as I wanted to,' the now 20-year-old told Daily Mail Australia.
Miss Johnson went back to her specialist at the Sydney Children's Hospital looking for another answer. Her doctor recommended an operation that would see two metal rods inserted on either side of her spine.
'It would essentially cement my back in place. There were no promises I'd be able to walk again let alone dance. I've been dancing since I was two and the thought of stopping was devastating,' she said.
At the tender age of sixteen Miss Johnson made the decision to have full back surgery. Her spine was at an 84 and 79 degree curve by this point.
The 20-year-old's mother thought the initial back pain might have been due to swimming and dancing lessons
'Doctors said it was one of the worst cases they'd ever seen. I remember crying a lot when I heard that,' she said.
On April 4, 2013, the dancer went in for surgery. She was to stay in hospital for a full week recovering post-operation.
'I was shaking and crying on the hospital bed before I went in. I woke up with a lot of tubes in my mouth and arm. After four days of lying in bed I was told I had to try walking again.
'Because my back is like cement I had to log-roll off the bed just to get up. I remember thinking I couldn't do this and I'd never walk again,' she said.
To her doctor's amazement Miss Johnson had fully recovered and was dancing again after two months. It was one of the fastest recoveries they'd recorded.
The performing arts university student (pictured bottom right) was fearful she may not have been able to dance again post-operation
'The only thing I can't do is roll down through my back. So if I want to touch my toes I need to do it with a flat back.'
Back at school, and with a pain-free back, Miss Johnson set about realising her dreams and preparing for university.
But in September 2015 a taxi driver crashed into her car. The jolt of the crash threw her body forward, something the rods and clamps around her spine would ordinarily not be able to do.
'I started to feel pain in my lower back two weeks later. I knew it had to be from the crash. We tried physio and a cortisone injection but neither worked.
Miss Johnson (pictured here at her year 12 formal) said a car crash in 2015 will now require her to undergo a second operation
Miss Johnson's spine pictured before her first operation at 16 (left) and after the rods and clamps were inserted (right)
'That's when doctors said I had an inflamed facet joint. A couple of the screws in my back had come loose around the area,' she said.
Miss Johnson must now undergo a second half-back surgery to cut out the metal rod and replace the screws. While it isn't as 'serious' as the first operation, it will still leave her bedridden, something the dance and education student isn't looking forward to.
'At the moment day to day things like making breakfast causes me great pain. Sitting down for long periods of time is painful so I try to stand up as much as possible.
Miss Johnson will have the support of her loved ones (pictured with her boyfriend) as she persists with the second operation
'I can't be slotted into surgery until January 2018 so it's a frustrating kind of pain that isn't going away anytime soon,' she said.
The dancer will have the support of her boyfriend and family to get through this second surgery.
'I'm just looking forward to dancing pain-free again!' Miss Johnson said.
Thirteen-year-old Auckland girl Kate Chandulal would love to be just like everyone else. Diagnosed with scoliosis at birth, Kate contracted meningitis at the age of five and now regards Starship Children’s Hospital as her second home.
Seeking solace in reading and with a gift for storytelling, Kate has just written book A Walk in My Shoes, which was launched at a morning tea in Auckland this week. The launch was hosted by publishers Scholastic and Global Ed (GES), and attended by teaching staff from Starship Children’s Hospital, Skylight, family and friends.
Among the many tributes read out at the launch was one by Heather Henare, CE Skylight, who said, “Kate, you are a great role model for anyone faced with adversity – despite the struggles and pain, you have managed to push through and turn your experiences into hope for others. Your message of resilience and hope which you embody, is the same message that Skylight also promotes.”
Kate hopes that the publication of her book will foster greater understanding among her peers and reach children all over the world. She challenges readers to “walk in her shoes” and to have empathy for those whose lives are different from their own. Kate’s message is also one of resilience and hope; despite her physical limitations, Kate remains cheerful and positive about life.
Kate says, “My longing in life is to be like others, to belong and not be left out, like the ugly duckling was in the story. When I experience rejection or become an object to poke fun at, I have a heavy sinking sadness inside and want to ask, “Why are you being so mean? I’m just like you inside.”
Global Ed (GES) are the proud publisher of A Walk in My Shoes, which they publish in conjunction with Scholastic as part of their ‘Into Connectors’ series. Scholastic will make the book available to every school in New Zealand and GES will sell it to schools internationally. GES have already struck deals with educational distributors in the UK, US, North Africa and the Middle East.
GES Director and educator Jill Eggleton met Kate while volunteering at Starship Children’s Hospital in a teaching support role. Bowled over by Kate’s bubbly personality and imaginative writing skills, Jill said,
“A Walk in My Shoes is a gem; an honest, thought-provoking story from the heart of a courageous young girl for whom living is a constant challenge.”
“We have published hundreds of books and this is the first time we have published one by an author as young as Kate, which in itself, is a remarkable achievement,” said Eggleton.