Schoolgirl with the 'worst spinal curvature' doctors had ever seen can do the splits again after 11-hour operation
Emily Crosby, 13, had one of the worst cases of scoliosis doctors had seenHer lungs were being crushed by her ribs and risked being punctured
Had an 11-hour operation in which a titanium rod was fitted to her spine

Eleanor Harding


11:51 GMT, 28 February 2013



01:52 GMT, 1 March 2013

She loved dancing, playing sport and appeared to be completely healthy. But this young girl nearly died after her spine started to curve like a snake.

Emily Crosby, 13, looked like she had a fin between her shoulders where her backbone stuck out.

The teenager’s vertebrae were curved at a 90 degree angle and twisted 50 degrees in the opposite direction further down – creating a giant ‘s’ shape.

Emily trains with her local dance academy

Emily trains with her local dance academy

Before the operation Emily's spine had a double curve

Emily was doing the splits within two weeks of the operation

Before her operation, Emily's spine had a double curve (left). She
underwent an 11 hour operation to fit a titanium rod to her spine

Doctors were unsure what caused her scoliosis – or curvature of the spine – but said it was the worst case they had ever seen.

The condition developed in just half a year. Her parents originally thought it was being caused by an ill-fitting bra.

It was only when doctors examined her
that they realised her life was at risk. They told Emily that if her
spine curved any more it could puncture her lung.

Emily was saved by an 11-hour operation in which surgeons inserted a rod into her back to straighten it out.

Before her operation Emily's spine stuck out like a 'shark's fin' if she bent forward

Emily has recovered sufficiently that she is about to take part in a netball tour

Before the operation (left) Emily's ribs were crushing her lungs. Now
(right) she has recovered sufficiently to take part in a netball
tournament in Italy

Her mother Jackie, 45, said: ‘They had to pick me off the floor when they told me. It was awful.

‘We thought the doctor was showing us
an X-ray of the worst-case scenario but it was actually my daughter’s
spine on the screen.

‘I cried a lot. Emily is very fit and active so we never knew anything was wrong. She never felt any pain.

Emily Crosby (right, pictured with her mother, left) underwent an 11 hour operation to straighten her spine

Emily Crosby (right, pictured with her mother, left) underwent an 11 hour operation to straighten her spine

‘When we got to the hospital and the
doctor asked her to bend forward I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Her spine was sticking out like a shark’s fin.’

Mrs Crosby and her husband Glen, 45, a
project manager, said Emily’s spine had been perfectly straight when
they had gone on holiday together just six months earlier.

It was Emily’s dance teacher who realised her back was misaligned, as she had studied the condition on a physiotherapy course.

In June last year the schoolgirl, from
Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, underwent a day of surgery at nearby
James Cook University Hospital. She had a titanium rod inserted and
fixed on to her spine with 18 screws.

At one point during the operation,
surgeons were forced to stop when a machine monitoring Emily’s progress
delivered a reading of paralysis. Thankfully it was a false alarm.

Her mother said: ‘I was so nervous
when she went into theatre. It sounds awful to say, but one slip of the
knife and she’s paralysed. That’s all it takes.’

Emily recovered rapidly from the
surgery. Doctors were amazed to find she could do the splits just two
weeks after the operation.

The teenager is now back to full fitness and enjoys dancing and playing sport.

She has finished a stint performing in
a pantomime, trains with her local dance school and is even competing
in a netball tournament in Italy at the end of the month. She also took
part in a Boxing Day dip, raising 450 for the spinal unit to thank it
for saving her life.

Mrs Crosby added: ‘We are so proud of
her. Even though her operation was so serious, she was determined to
show other children with the same condition that you can still be active
and enjoy your life.’

Doctors are unable to explain why
eight out of ten children develop scoliosis. It is not thought to be
caused by posture, exercise or diet.