Lauren Ferris had a rib and a disc removed and three rods inserted, held in place by 19 screws, to correct the curve in her spine that suddenly appeared last year, putting an end her twin loves of dancing and karate.
It’s no wonder the 14-year-old, from Midleton, Co Cork, can’t wait to get back in the swimming pool, where activity is painless.
Lauren is one of more than 150 children nationwide signed up to the world’s first tailored swim programme for pre- and post-surgical juvenile scoliosis patients — a good news story in the wake of a slew of negative reports around surgery waiting times for children with severely curved spines.
The Straight2Swimming free programme, already underway in Kildare and Belfast, was trialled in the Mardyke Arena in Cork last year and Lauren took part. She had recently been diagnosed with scoliosis.
Lauren’s mother, Mary, says: “She was complaining of a pain in her back. I had a look and I knew something was wrong. We took her to the doctor and he said it was scoliosis.”
Lauren had developed adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, a condition for which there is no known cause. Scoliosis is a condition that affects two in every 1,000 children in Ireland. Up to that point, she had been fit and active. Dancing and karate were her passions.
Because Lauren was in a lot of pain and because delays in treatment were making headlines, her surgery was fast-tracked. She travelled to the UK and spent 16 days in hospital where
she underwent two major surgeries last September.
Her consultant instructed her to abstain from swimming for six months. That time is almost up and Lauren is due to return to the pool on April 3. She is understandably nervous having come through major surgery, but her coach, Eimear Brown, has reassured her.
Lauren says: “I was very worried about getting in the water but Eimear reassured me everything would be OK.
“I’m feeling really positive about it now. Swimming will help me get back some of my flexibility. I was very flexible before all of this happened.
“It’s so much easier to move in the water, and it’s pain-free.”
The programme, launched in September 2014 in Belfast with just eight swimmers, has upwards of 150 members, and an additional 25 children are expected to benefit with the start tomorrow of the weekly swimming sessions at the Mardyke Arena.
Pat Kiely, consultant spine surgeon at the National Children’s Hospital, said Straight2Swimming “is the most positive single action in enhancing scoliosis patients’ capacity, allowing them to be themselves and all that they can be”.
The programme is funded by American specialist spine medical device company, K2M.
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