Walking tall, the girl who grew 4in after surgery to cure curved spineLaura's brother first noticed there was a problem with her back during a family holiday in April 2008
When Laura Fitzwalter’s brother noticed one of her shoulder blades was more pronounced than the other, her parents were concerned but not worried.
After all, the then 13-year-old seemed to be in perfect health and had never complained of any pain.
But the schoolgirl and her family were left stunned after an X-ray revealed that she was suffering from one of the worst cases of curvature of the spine – scoliosis – doctors had ever seen.
They warned that if she did not have an
operation – which could leave her paralysed – her lungs and heart would
slowly be crushed.
Laura Fitzwalter (left) had the biggest curve in her spine doctors had ever seen. She has grown four inches since the operation
Laura’s mother Tracy, a pre-school assistant, said: ‘We were shocked when we saw how curved Laura’s spine was.
'The surgeon said it was the biggest curve he had ever seen. It was devastating to hear it would have killed her as it was crushing her heart and lungs.'
'The operation risked paralysing her, but we had no choice. She had to have the operation to survive.’
Laura, now 16, has made a full recovery and is an astonishing 4in taller than before the operation.
Her brother Adam, 19, first noticed there was a problem with her back during a family holiday in April 2008.
Mrs Fitzwalter, who lives with husband Neil, a sales director, in Bournemouth, said: ‘Adam noticed that Laura’s shoulder blade seemed to be sticking out more on the right side.
‘We had never noticed it before, but it was really quite pronounced and noticeable when she was wearing a strappy summer top. She wasn’t in any pain, but I was concerned about it.’
After returning home, a doctor diagnosed her with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.
The condition affects up to four in every 1,000 children in the UK and can develop at any time in childhood or adolescence.
Most cases correct themselves naturally, but occasionally surgery is needed.
A surgeon at Poole General Hospital, where Laura’s X-rays were taken, later told the family it was the biggest curvature he had seen.
Mrs Fitzwalter said: ‘When we heard the news, we were absolutely devastated.
At the time, Laura wasn’t in any pain and yet we were being told that her life was in danger.
‘If her spine was left to carry on curving, then it would kill her. Laura was terrified.
‘It was awful to hear what the risks were. The surgeon told us it was the equivalent to open heart surgery and that she could end up paralysed.
‘But we didn’t have a choice. She had to have the operation to survive.’
The schoolgirl underwent surgery in July 2010 at Southampton General Hospital, where it took ten hours to fix metal rods on either side of her spine to straighten it.
Laura, with mother Tracy and father Neil. She has now fully recovered from her operation and is back riding her horse Sparky again
Mrs Fitzwalter said: ‘Waiting for the operation to finish was the longest ten hours of our life.
'She had been so frightened when she was wheeled down for surgery. But she was so brave. We couldn’t believe it when she came home taller than she had been before.
had to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes because nothing fitted her
any more. But it has given her so much more confidence.
loves riding her horse Sparky again, she sits much straighter in the
saddle. It’s amazing to see how well Laura is doing. It was a risky
operation, but it’s all been worth it.’
Laura will have to have a yearly check up, but is not expected to need more surgery.
spokesman for the Scoliosis SOS clinic, which specialises in treating
the condition, said: ‘We have never heard of a case of anyone who has a
spine with a bigger curve than this. She has been very lucky.’