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Getting Back to Dance: Kira’s Scoliosis Story

Is there dance after a spinal fusion? Yes!

Kira, a dancer since age 2 and a competitive dancer since age 6, never thought she would be stopped in her tracks from pain that might have ended her dancing career.

She was strong, flexible and a successful competitor. But as Kira continued to grow, she began complaining of severe back pain. Even after seeking chiropractic and massage treatments, the pain persisted. In 2019 her pediatrician found a curve in her back at a well-child visit. She had scoliosis.

“When Kira’s pediatrician first noticed her scoliosis, I wasn’t too concerned,” said Kira’s mother Beth. “He thought that her curve was around 30 degrees.” Beth reached out to the mother of a dancer friend of Kira’s who also had scoliosis. She recommended they see Michelle Welborn, M.D., at Shriners Children’s Portland.

“I will never forget sitting in that room when Dr. Welborn showed us the X-ray of Kira’s back,” said Beth. Not only was the curve more severe (43 degrees) than the pediatrician thought, Dr. Welborn also diagnosed Kira with spondylolisthesis. Dr. Welborn explained what this all meant. If Kira's curve were to progress past 50 degrees, it would likely continue to progress and could ultimately have an impact on her heart and lungs.

Spinal Fusion

After monitoring her progress for several months, it was decided that Kira would need a spinal fusion. Surgery terrified Kira and Beth. “How could she possibly ever dance again with two rods in her back?” asked Beth. “Kira cried at the thought of having surgery, but Dr. Welborn was amazing and talked with Kira until she calmed down.”

Beth was impressed with how well Dr. Welborn handled the situation and successfully reassured Kira that there would be life after surgery. “We left with a plan and felt confident that we were at the right place with an amazing doctor.”

When the surgery day came, the family felt fully prepared. After Kira’s pre-op appointment, they left with a wealth of knowledge and knew exactly what to expect. “Dr. Welborn met my husband, Kira and me on the morning of her surgery,” said Beth. “She sat with us until we were 100% comfortable.”

Beth had been nervous in the days leading up to the surgery, but the morning of, she felt completely calm and noticed that Kira felt the same. Beth appreciated the nurses and all of the staff members who helped to keep them calm. “We were constantly notified of Kira’s progress and if we ever had a concern, all we had to do was text the number they gave us and we would receive an immediate update.”

All of our needs and concerns were always handled with so much care and compassion. We truly had the best experience and I always recommend Shriners Children’s whenever I have the opportunity to do so.
Beth, Kira's mom

“My surgery experience was so great,” said Kira. “When in the hospital recovering from surgery, there were always nurses at the ready to help me with whatever I needed. One of them was even nice enough to wash my hair for me!” Kira is also grateful for how smooth the recovery process was. “The surgery hardly caused me any pain because I was given medicine at the right times and had comfortable items nearby at all times.”

Dr. Welborn knows that having a scoliosis diagnosis can be scary for families, and she is committed to being there with them through the whole journey. “My goal is for this to overall be a positive experience and a source of strength,” she said. “To know that they can be proud of themselves and they can do hard things!” Dr. Welborn knew Kira would do great things after the surgery and was there every step of the way. “It was a long journey to figure it out, but we did it together.”

In addition to great care, Kira was able to make a friend who was having the same surgery that day. “We had lots of similar interests and she was so nice! We still stay in touch to this day,” said Kira. “My surgery is so nostalgic to me and I always love thinking about those happy memories.”

Beth appreciates how well they continue to be treated at every appointment at Shriners Children’s Portland. “They remember her name and her hobbies. You can feel how compassionate all of the employees are. The culture is amazing.” Staff members like Becky Davis, RN, who feels more like a friend than their nurse; the receptionist, registration, scheduling and care management staff members all contributed to their incredible experience.

Back to Dancing!

Since her surgery, Kira is now back dancing and even qualified for the same team she was on before her surgery. “I’m back to doing my crazy flips and tricks, which is insane,” said Kira. “I won’t lie, I did have some doubts about what I could and couldn’t do when I started dancing and moving again six months post-op. I was very impatient with myself and I felt like I had started from the beginning again. I wanted to be able to do everything again right there at that moment.” Through her persistence, Kira discovered her muscles knew what to do, and she again became an incredible performer.

In addition to competitive dancing, Kira is teaching two hip hop classes and is maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

“I’m just so thankful that my family, friends, dance instructors, nurses and doctor all had so much faith in me and believed that I would be where I’m at today. They truly made me believe in myself.”

Kira has advice for others who might be facing a spinal fusion surgery: “It may feel like you’re starting from scratch again but you’ll get where you used to be in no time!”

Kira is 100% back!

After spinal fusion, Kira wasn’t sure if she would be able to make it back to competitive dancing. Just months after surgery, she qualified for the same competitive team she was on before surgery and is dancing up a storm!
View Transcript


End screen: Shriners Children's Portland logo

Shiners Children's Helped Kira Get Back to What She Loves

Not only was Kira able to get back to dancing after a spinal fusion, under Dr. Welborn's guidance, “I’m back to doing my crazy flips and tricks, which is insane!” – Kira

Kira with Dr. Welborn

“It was a long journey to figure it out but we did it together.” – Dr. Welborn

Kira with her mother

Kira and her mom Beth, on surgery day.


Kira celebrates getting on the other side of surgery at her post-op visit.

Kira in wheelchair with staff member

Kira will always remember the staff at Shriners Children's Portland fondly, and how well she was taken care of.

Kira dancing

Kira dances...

Kira dancing

...and dances...

Kira dancing

...and dances...

Kira dancing

...and dances!

next steps

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