At one stage, the curve in Seán Bosonnet’s spine was so acute that he would slide off a chair on to the floor when he tried to sit down.
Born with hemiplegic cerebral palsy — where one side of the body is weaker — he developed scoliosis in his teens. At age 15, he was diagnosed with a 48% curvature of the spine. The curve was at 90% — a right angle — by the time he had surgery, after spending more than a year on a waiting list.
The wait could have gone on indefinitely had Straight Ahead not stepped in, a charity set up in 2011 to cater for children in need of time-critical orthopaedic surgery.
“When he was younger he used to be able to walk with a stick and someone supporting him. He loved orienteering and he won the Cork Orienteering Summer League in 2010 — his dad David pushed him around the course in a three-wheel buggy,” says mum Nuala.
“But as time went on and the curve got worse, the only thing he could sit in was a wheelchair which was moulded to fit. He was in severe pain all of the time.”
In desperation, the Bosonnets, who live in Carrigaline, Co Cork, examined the option of treatment abroad and went to discuss it with their son’s orthopaedic surgeon at Crumlin Children’s Hospital, Pat Kiely.
“Pat said he could only get theatre time in Blackrock Clinic and we said we’d fundraise, do whatever was necessary. But Pat got back to us and said Straight Ahead would fund it.”
The operation, which took place in June 2016, was life-changing, life-saving even, because the curve was so bad it had started to compress his lungs and heart.
Nowadays Seán, one of a family of five children, is “flying it” Nuala says.
For something that began as a “little project” six years ago, driven by Pat Kiely and a group of colleagues in an effort to get kids in dire need off waiting lists, Straight Ahead has carried out more than 100 surgeries in the last six years, with surgeons performing operations pro-bono at weekends. Everyone involved is a volunteer, with administrative support from the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation (CMRF). The charity has also helped provide equipment and support for Cork and Crumlin paediatric orthopaedic services. Thanks to Santa Cycle 2016, Munster Paediatric Orthopaedic service now has an ultrasound scanner at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital.
Straight Ahead is currently gearing up for Santa Cycle 2017 which takes place this Sunday, details of which are available on The Old Offenders prequel: www.facebook.com/Corks96fm/videos/1726721227360122.
Alternatively, anyone who wishes to take part can register on www.cmrf.primo-events.com/ps/event/CorkSantaCycle2017.
Mascots for this year’s cycle are Megan Ryan from Limerick and her mother Sharon Halvey Ryan. Megan featured extensively in the media after an RTÉ programme highlighted the constant pain she was living in due to delayed scoliosis surgery. She was finally operated on last August and her spine is now almost completely straight.
Latest HSE figures show that numbers on the waiting list at Crumlin Children’s Hospital and Temple St Children’s Hospital deemed clinically in need of surgery within the four-month target period set out in the Scoliosis Action Plan was 79 as of August 31 last, with a further 94 deemed in need of surgery in 2018.
The figures also show that as of week ending November 24 last, 337 spinal surgeries had been carried out, including 19 in the UK.
The Scoliosis Action Plan estimated that around 447 patients would need to be treated by the end of December 2017 in order to achieve the four-month target.
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