Bailey’s Journey to Treat Her Scoliosis

When 13-year-old Bailey’s parents noticed her spine was curving, there was never a question where they would take their daughter. They knew the care would be well worth the drive.

Teen scoliosis and spine surgery patient smiling with orthopedic surgeon

Bailey was getting her eighth-grade sports physical when she first learned something could be wrong.

“The doctor said she may have scoliosis, but it was nothing to worry about at the time,” says Bailey’s mom, Kelli. “By May, however, my husband and I noticed her spine was curving pretty dramatically.”

In a panic, Kelli texted photos to her brother, Joshua S. Murphy, MD, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He suggested that Bailey be X-rayed immediately.

A startling diagnosis

“After seeing the X-rays, Josh recommended we bring Bailey to Children’s to see Dennis P. Devito, MD,” says Kelli.

The family drove five hours from Greensboro, N.C., to Atlanta for the examination. “With Bailey being his niece and Dr. Devito being my brother’s mentor, we knew her spine would be in the best hands possible.”

The appointment revealed that Bailey had idiopathic scoliosis, with an s-curve in her spine that was 57 degrees in her upper back and 34 degrees in her lumbar area—far exceeding the standard definition of scoliosis being a curve of 11 degrees or more.

What was even more concerning was that the curvature was becoming more extreme. “Dr. Devito said her curve was progressing a few degrees a month and that it was going to impact her quality of life since she still had about two more years of growing,” Kelli says. “Knowing that, we would have driven wherever she needed to go. We had to just make sure Bailey received the best care.”

A swift intervention

Within two months of Kelli’s first text to her brother, Bailey underwent a selective spinal fusion. The procedure reduces the size of the larger curvature and allows the lower, less severe curve to correct naturally.

“This kind of surgery requires surgeons who have experience performing this kind of selective intervention,” Dr. Devito says. “We talk to each other regularly about the most difficult cases, and we have a team of surgeons who work together to create the best plan for each individual child—another unique aspect of our program.”

As one might expect, Kelli was worried about her daughter’s surgery. “It made my head spin knowing Bailey was going to have surgery and have rods and screws put in her spine. But Children’s walked us through every step. Everyone was so willing to answer questions.”

A successful outcome

Three days after spine surgery, Bailey was released and returned to North Carolina, where she received physical therapy twice a week. “Recovery has been tough for Bailey, but she was able to return to school for half days at the beginning of the school year and can now go for the full day,” says Kelli.

Building back her stamina and energy, Bailey quickly returned to her inquisitive, sarcastic self. While she recovered, she honed her baking skills—all the while anticipating the upcoming softball season.

“She has missed softball so much, but we just try to remind her that it’s a temporary situation and that this will just increase her ability to do all the things she loves,” Kelli says. “I also hope the incision scar will be a source of empowerment for her. We try to talk about it in a positive way.”

Where you take them matters.

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