30 November 2008

Teenage gymnast has pioneering surgery to cure twisted spine

A teenage gymnast is setting her sights on international glory after pioneering surgery to cure her twisted spine.

Last Updated: 1:32PM GMT 30 Nov 2008

Ruth Smith, 13, was suffering from a rare condition called scoliosis which meant her back was permanently bent in an 'S' shape.

The condition was diagnosed five years ago and had caused her spine to grow as much as 78 degrees off straight.

And it even meant that one of her ribs was sticking out of her right side because her whole ribcage was twisted.

Normally with scoliosis, two titanium rods are screwed into the spine to help straighten it and brackets known as 'dominoes' are fixed in place to allow the rods to move.

But with young children this can cause long term problems because fixing just two rods in place doesn't allow the spine to grow naturally.

Ruth's spinal surgeon, Evan Davies, felt that because of her age and the high level of flexibility needed for her gymnastics this would not work - so he invented his own.

Mr Davies teamed up with a Swiss professor of engineering to design and manufacture the groundbreaking 'Davies' Dominoes'.

And just three months after the nine hour operation, Ruth, from Portsmouth, Hants, was back on the vault - and is now setting her sights on the 2012 European Championships.

Ruth's mum Miriam, 44, said the change in her daughter since the operation, which took place on June 3, has been 'amazing.'

She said: "We first spotted there was something wrong when she was eight and she has been monitored ever since then

"Evan Davies got involved about two years ago when the curve in her spine began to get dramatically worse.

"She actually kept up her gymnastics right up until a week before the operation.

If Ruth had been treated in the conventional way, with two rods rather than four, she would have had to return to hospital each year for an operation.

But because of Davies' Dominoes, the only operation she will need in the future is when she stops growing.

Ruth said she was nervous before the operation but says that since getting back on the floor she feels 'like there was never anything wrong.'

She said: "Being able to do gymnastics without any pain is amazing for me.

"I was nervous before the surgery but it feels fantastic now and I can do everything I could before.

"It feels like there was never anything wrong."

Ruth, who trains four times a week, added: "The thought of not being able to do it anymore was horrible - it was worse than the pain itself.

"Now I would love to take my gymnastics further and be in our team for the European Championships."

Mr Davies, who is a consultant in spinal surgery at Southampton General Hospital gained international reknown last year when he reattached a junior racing driver's head to his spine after a horror crash.

Chris Stewart was just 12 years old when he suffered 'internal decapitation' in the accident.

Chris astounded experts by making a full recovery from his life-threatening injuries.

1 comment:

  1. I congratulate Ruth for her courage to undergo this extremely delicate operation at her very young age. I hope she can make it to the 2012 European Championships.

    Kids Gymnastics