THE BRAVEST SMILE
GIRL’S SURGERY HOPE
WHEN HER daughter began to complain of back ache six months ago, Karen Shoob put it down to growing pains.
But when, in September, 10-yearold Mackenzie could hardly stand up straight, Mrs Shoob grew worried and took her to the doctor.
There they learned that Mackenzie, who is in year six at Clore Shalom school in Hertfordshire, was suffering from severe scoliosis — a curvature of the spine.
“The doctor told me to stand next to him behind her — I was stunned,” Mrs Shoob said. “Her whole body was curving to one side.
“Normally, scoliosis can begin with a curve of between 15 to 20 degrees; Mackenzie had a 61 degree curve to her top spine.”
In most cases, wear a brace until they have stopped growing and then have corrective surgery.
Such was the seriousness of Mackenzie’s condition, however that doctors recommended an immediate operation.
But Ms Shoob and her husband, Andrew, were reluctant to submit their daughter to a procedure that would involve inserting metal rods into her spine, severely limiting her movement and putting her at possible risk of arthritis and degenerative disc syndrome.
They preferred, instead, a new treatment, called vertebral bodily tethering, which has a phenomenal success record. Metal rods attached to cords are inserted at the side of the body rather than the spine. The cords are then pulled tight to straighten the patient as they grow.
The problem for the Shoobs was that it was only available in the United States, could cost up to £150,000, and needed to be done as soon as possible.
“We immediately got on a plane and met three different surgeons, who said that she was at the top end of severity, but was treatable,” Mrs Shoob said.
“We then found the most incredible children’s charity hospital in Philadelphia, called Shriners. After they exam- ined Mackenzie, they said they would do the operation for free.”
Now the family, who live in Elstree and belong to Watford United Synagogue, are preparing for a five-week stay in the United States in February. Mackenzie will need at least a month to recover before she can fly home.
Mrs Shoob said her daughter had struggled with the pain and worry about the operation, but was “really determined”.
She said: “She is now at the stage where she is asking ‘Why is this happening to me?’ We are just doing our best to keep her spirits up.
“The after-effects of the operation will be very strenuous. Initially, she won’t be able to walk and she will lose weight because she won’t be able to eat. It is going to be a hard month, but it will be so worth it in the end.”
After the treatment, Mackenzie will still need to return to the United States for annual check-ups until she is 21.
The family have expressed their gratitude to Shriners by setting up a fundraising appeal for the hospital.
“In just one day, we raised £1,400,” Mrs Shoob said. “I would like to raise £10,000, and then donate another £10,000 from our family.”
‘Her whole body was curving to one side — I was stunned’
Mackenzie manages to keep her spirits up ahead of her operation in America. Right: an X-ray shows the 61-degree curve in her spine