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Scoliosis surgery allows 11-year-old to reignite her passion for playing the viola

Jasmine nestles her viola underneath her chin and takes a deep breath. She raises her bow and, as she glides it smoothly over the strings, warm, rich tones fill the air.

The 11-year-old Evansville, Indiana, girl can get lost in the moment while making music. Thanks to recent surgery at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, she now can do so without pain.

It was just more than a year ago when nurses doing a scoliosis screening at her school uncovered an S-shaped bend in her spine. While her parents saw local doctors over the next three months, the condition rapidly worsened. “To watch it go downhill so quickly the way it did, it was very frightening,” said her dad, Ty.

One by one, Jasmine was forced to limit or give up the things she loved to do: tumbling, rock climbing, soccer and the viola. It simply became too much for her to hold the instrument in a ready position for any length of time. “That was so hard because she has this beautiful grace when she plays,” said her mom, Shannan.

Then, three Shriners at her church – Randy Dierlam, Jim Hitch and Mike Clark – talked to her parents about the St. Louis Shriners Hospital. They filled out the patient referral form and Jasmine was on her way to a brighter future.

She saw Brian Kelly, M.D., a Shriners Hospital physician since 2016. As important to Jasmine and her family, they met patients with similar conditions, similar fears, similar hopes. “Jasmine saw that she’s not alone on her journey,” Shannan said. “She saw that grown adults don’t stare at her or make rude comments. They are there to help her.”

When patients develop a spine curve as early as Jasmine did, the risk jumps for the development of increased pressure on the heart and lungs, which can cause potentially life-threatening complications. Jasmine had surgery Aug. 17. Dr. Kelly and his team inserted multiple screws to two rods that essentially grasp the spine to straighten it.

“The point is to hold the spine nice and stable while all the bones become one bone,” Dr. Kelly said. “Ultimately, it is to prevent the progress of the curvature while at the same time correcting the deformity.”

A slim fraction of the population develops scoliosis, but less than half of 1% end up needing surgery, Dr. Kelly said.

“Surgery for scoliosis is fairly uncommon,” Kelly said. “It just feels common to us here at Shriners Hospital because it’s what we do, it’s who we treat, it’s what we specialize in.”

Overnight, Jasmine went from 5-foot-2 to 5-foot-6. Since then, she’s added another inch. “We’re actually going shopping this afternoon because she just won’t stop growing,” her mom said in early November.

Jasmine is itching to get back to all the things she was forced to give up as the pain worsened, but she keeps things in perspective. “I don’t want to interrupt the process of healing,” she said.

But the viola? That she can do. “When she was able to pick up the viola again and hold it with no pain, that was priceless,” Ty said.

Dr. Kelly said this is exactly why he got into pediatric orthopaedics. “It gives you goosebumps,” he said. “We do these surgeries so kids can do what they want, so they can pursue their passions.”

Jasmine is back to taking weekly private lessons, and there’s talk of her joining the Evansville Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. Her parents give credit to the medical team at Shriners Hospitals for making that a possibility.

Said Ty: “There is hope with Shriners Hospital.”

Jasmine holding violin

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