Repairing the Effects of Scoliosis-Emily's Story

Swimming Fast and Swimming Strong: A Competitive Teen Athlete Excels after Spine Surgery

“Scoliosis runs in my family: I had it and Emily has it,” says Deb, Emily’s mother. “Emily began seeing Dr. Thompson few years ago. He treated Emily with a custom back brace to prevent her spine’s curve from progressing. We appreciated Dr. Thompson starting with a less invasive approach. After a few years, she started growing so quickly and so did the degree of curve in her spine—and her best option became surgery. ”

Emily, at 5’10” and a physique of pure muscle honed by a decade of competitive swimming, had much at stake. “We weren’t sure she’d be able to swim at a high level anymore after surgery,” says Deb.

Emily felt more confident. “Dr. Thompson assured me that everything would be fine and understood how I wanted to get back to a competitive level. And several friends had been through the same thing. I was anxious to get it over with.”

During her surgery at Valley Medical Center, Jason Thompson, MD, corrected the rotation in Emily’s spine and fixed two Pangea system titanium rods to her spine to straighten it. “After surgery, I was impressed the care at The Spine Center. The nursing staff was on top of helping Emily manage her pain. They understood what she was experiencing. I appreciated the scanning technology used to administer the pain medication accurately,” says Deb.

Within a year after her surgery, Emily finished 3rd in the state in the 100m Fly. In November, she helped lead her AAAA high school to a 3rd place finish in the state swim and dive championship—the best her school has ever done. “It was painful at first (after surgery), but the recovery was only a temporary setback and hasn’t hurt my performance. Now I don’t have limitations,” says Emily.

What is Scoliosis?
A normal spine, when viewed from behind, appears straight. However a spine affected by scoliosis has a curvature looking like an “S” or “C” and a rotation of the vertebrae, giving the person the appearance of leaning to one side. Early detection is important. If left untreated, scoliosis can eventually cause problems with heart and lung function.

Photo: Emily at the 2011 Washington state AAAA Swim and Dive Championship
Credit to Charles Cortes/Kent Reporter