23 August 2008

Teen overcomes scoliosis


DANVILLE — Courtney Godley watched her dad, Pastor Rod Godley, fill out a medical form at the eye doctor about her. In the section that asked about her health issues, Rod wrote “scoliosis.”

“No, Dad,” Courtney corrected him when she saw what he’d written. “I had scoliosis.”

The worst part of overcoming her scoliosis through spinal surgery was that it delayed when Courtney would get her driver’s license.

The best part? She can put scoliosis behind her forever.

Courtney, a 16-year-old Danville High School sophomore, was born with a greater chance than most of developing the abnormal curvature of the spine. Although the cause of most cases of scoliosis remains unknown, the condition does run in families.

Heidi Godley, Courtney’s mom, knew her daughter was at risk for scoliosis — Heidi’s own mom had it. Besides the genetic link, more girls than boys are affected.

Fortunately, neither Heidi nor her two sisters who made up the family’s set of triplets, had shown any signs of the condition. Courtney didn’t start showing any signs of having the condition until she was an eighth-grader at North Ridge Middle School.

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, http://www.mayoclinic.com, “Scoliosis is often first noticed around the time of adolescence, during a growth spurt. Growth is often the cause for worsening of an existing curve.”

Courtney had experienced what she and her parents considered to be growing pains. At times, they also blamed her back pain on long trips she made as part of her show choir group the Radiant Reds’ competition schedule.

But during a routine physical, Carle Clinic-Danville Nurse Practitioner Jan Byrne ran her hand down Courtney’s back.

“Because of the family history,” Heidi said, “we always had her back checked.”

This time, though, that check aroused Byrne’s suspicions. Byrne, a member of Courtney’s dad’s congregation at Vermilion Heights Christian Church, ran her hand down the teen’s back again at church.

“I never saw (scoliosis) progress so rapidly,” Byrne said. “This was very dramatic. I told the parents we had to do something right away.”

The family sought treatment for Courtney at the Carle Spine Institute in Urbana. A brace was prescribed as the first course of treatment, a common practice when the patient is still growing and the curve is greater than 20 per cent. Courtney fell into that category.

The hard plastic brace Courtney first wore conformed to her body and put corrective force on her spine. She kept it on 20-22 hours a day from April-August 2007.

“The brace was so restrictive,” Courtney said. “It got really hot.

“Plus,” she said, “it didn’t really work.”

Another, more intricate and expensive brace came next. Courtney wore that one until January 2008. It was made of canvas straps that fastened with Velcro, more flexible and cooler than the first one.

But it didn’t work either. Surgery was needed to keep Courtney’s already dramatic spinal curvature from worsening.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s Web site, among the complications scoliosis may cause if it progresses unchecked are lung and heart damage and chronic back problems.

Dr. Robert Hurford, orthopedic spine surgeon at Carle Spine Institute in Urbana, performed a six-hour operation on Courtney.

“Most people (with scoliosis) don’t need surgery,” Hurford said. “Scoliosis is generally benign and self-limited. The vast majority of people need not worry (about it).

“About 1 in 1,000 cases requires surgery,” Hurford said. “We use rods and screws to correct the curve(s). We fuse the bones.

“The prognosis after surgery is very good. Any discomfort goes away and typically there are no further problems.”

Courtney’s recovery has followed that pattern. She spent six days in the hospital following the surgery, but she missed eight weeks of school after she returned home.

“We had so much love and support from our congregation,” Rod said. “We don’t have any family in the area — the church is our family.”

“She worked hard to keep on track,” Heidi said. “She kept her grades up, and she had enough credits to move on to her sophomore year.”

Courtney’s 16th birthday fell around the time of her surgery, so she missed the driver’s education course. But she’s more than ready for that challenge. Courtney looks forward to taking driver’s education in school this year.


Signs and symptoms of scoliosis:

--Uneven shoulders.

--One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other.

--Uneven waist.

--One hip higher than the other.

--Leaning to one side.


Causes of scoliosis:

--Most causes are idiopathic (can’t be identified).

--Sometimes, a neuromuscular system disease, a leg-length discreency or a birth defect.

--Can begin during fetal development.

--Can be a birth defect that appears with other congenital problems.


--Spinal cord and brainstem abnormalities.

NOT causes:

--Poor posture.

--Poor diet.

--Lack of exercise.

--Backpack use.

(Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com)

1 comment:

  1. Hello

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I have scoliosis and I enjoy reading about the back and scoliosis on blogs and other websites.. I am very pleased with the SpineCor brace that I started wearing since Nov 2004. I have hardly any back pain and there has been some improvement in my curve. It took a while but I got used to it and I appreciate the support it gives my back. A couple of people have told me that I look straighter now. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to use the SpineCor brace. If you want more information on it go to http://www.losangelesscoliosis.com . Anyways I look forward to all the updates. Thanks again.