THE BRAVEST SMILE

GIRL’S SURGERY HOPE

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

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

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