15 August 2008

North Mother spends life savings to cure spine condition

NHS refused £35,000 operation

FIGHTING FIT: Marjory Muir has seen a vast improvement since surgery which doctors refused her.

A north mother was forced to spend almost £35,000 on surgery after NHS medics told her they could do nothing to fix her curved spine.

During seven years of ineffective treatment, including physiotherapy, acupuncture and painful nerve-route injections, Marjory Muir, 47, of Wellside Road, Balloch, near Inverness, was never once referred to an expert in adult scoliosis.

When she inquired about surgery to relieve her of the crippling pain in her back, one orthopaedics specialist warned her it was too risky and “no one in the UK will touch you”.

But 18 months after a six-hour operation in London, Mrs Muir, who was 5ft before the surgery, now claims to have grown two inches and dropped two dress sizes around her waist.

She claims her high blood pressure has been controlled, her digestive problems are “vastly improved” and she is no longer in constant pain down the left side of her body.

The human resources director with Tulloch Homes Group now wants to push the Scottish Government to fund a dedicated adult scoliosis expert north of the border.

Mrs Muir believes she is one of at least 100 adult scoliosis sufferers in Scotland, but surgeons expert in the illness in Scotland operate only on children.

The mother-of-one was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis after complaining of back pain to her doctor when she was 25. After having her son eight years ago, her health deteriorated significantly.

“I was scrunched up, I had a hump on my back and my shoulders were down,” Mrs Muir said. It also left her with a constant pain down her left-hand side and severe sciatica in both legs.

In 2006, after years of treatments, her doctors admitted defeat. But she soon discovered adults in other parts of the UK were being offered surgery for the same condition.

In January 2007, London surgeon Stewart Tucker operated on her, de-rotating her rib cage and her spine, and inserting two titanium rods, 15 screws and three hooks. Mrs Muir now has a scar from the nape of her neck to the bottom of her back.

She used her savings to pay for the operation. The surgery itself cost just £3,000 but the anaesthetic cost £1,500, and the hospital costs amounted to £30,000.

Mrs Muir insisted it was money well spent. “It’s made a vast difference to my overall health. I had high blood pressure and quite a lot of difficulty getting it under control.

“They didn’t connect it with scoliosis. I was squashed up inside. I had digestive problems, which have vastly improved because everything has been given space inside.”

Mrs Muir is now surveying other adults with scoliosis in Scotland for a report for Highland MSP Dave Thompson who has pledged to raise it with the government.

Mr Thompson said: “This is obviously an issue of great concern to people suffering from this debilitating condition and their families and I applaud Marjory's campaigning efforts to secure better services for them. I’m happy to assist those efforts by raising this important issue with the Scottish Government.”

A government spokesman said: “Although we cannot comment on individual cases, we would always expect patients to be offered the most appropriate treatment. In deciding a particular course of treatment, clinicians must use their professional judgment to identify the most suitable treatment.”

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