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Allie Found Her Life’s Mission at Shriners Children’s Shreveport

Allie was always described as an active, spunky, sassy and caring child.

Growing up, she was always busy, participating in dance, soccer and softball teams. She was even a cheerleader for a short time. So, when she found out that she had scoliosis and needed to undergo spine surgery, she thought it would delay, or even stop, many of her plans.

As a preteen, Allie noticed that her right ribcage poked out more than normal. She told her parents and they took her to a local doctor, who told her it was nothing alarming. The physician said she had a tiny curve in her spine, but that it was not in a concerning range that needed treatment. However, like most children, she became self-conscious about her physical differences.

“I became more aware of the fact that other people’s ribs were not protruding out of their shirts,” Allie said.

Allie remembers one night falling asleep as her mom scratched her back. She said her mom traced her spine with her fingertips, felt a curve, and immediately knew that something was wrong. The next morning at school, Allie’s mom asked the nurse to examine her, and the nurse concluded that Allie might have a severe case of scoliosis. She was then referred to Shriners Children’s Shreveport.

Allie said she knew nothing about scoliosis at the time of her diagnosis. Her questions were endless, from wondering if she would lose her ability to walk, to thinking she had some form of serious disease.

“The word ‘scoliosis’ was like Greek to me,” Allie recalled. “I immediately assumed the worst. The questions in my 12-year-old brain were never-ending.”

After her first appointment at the Shreveport facility, Allie remembers feeling like her life was over. The doctor told her that she would need to wear a back brace to try to prevent her spine curvature from increasing any more.

“Imagine telling a 12-year-old that she was going to have to wear a noticeable, uncomfortable back brace 23 hours a day,” she said. “I felt as if my life was over. I remember feeling embarrassed, ashamed and weird.”

Like most preteens, Allie attempted to argue with her parents about not wearing the brace, but she said it did not work. She ended up wearing the back brace for an entire year until the summer of 2017. Initially, she said the curve in her spine seemed to stop growing, and she remembers feeling relieved and thinking this part of her healthcare journey was over.

Allie would continue to attend her six-month checkups throughout 2018, but towards the end of that year, she remembers feeling like the curve in her spine was getting worse. Not wanting to undergo surgery, she kept her concerns a secret from her parents.

Shriners Children’s Shreveport gave me back the confidence that scoliosis tried to take away from me.
Allie, former patient, Shriners Children's Shreveport

In January 2019, Allie and her mom returned to Shreveport for her usual six-month checkup and X-ray. After waiting longer than usual in the exam room for results, Allie said a doctor she never met came into the room to speak with them. In her mind, she already knew that the curve in her spine had gotten worse, and meeting a new doctor after so many checkups confirmed it.

Allie learned that her spine curvature had reached 53 degrees, which was in the range for treatment, and she would need to undergo spinal fusion surgery. Allie vividly remembers being “scared, overwhelmed and defeated” as her surgery was scheduled for that summer. She believed she would never be the same after getting two titanium rods placed in her back.

“I could not have been more wrong,” she admitted.

Allie remembers her pre-operation appointment being a “calming, reassuring and comforting experience” before a day that would be nerve-wracking for anyone, let alone a teenager. She said she was still unsure of the details of her surgery, but that all changed once she met with the child life specialist.

“I will never forget the ease she brought to me and my parents,” Allie said. “She took us into a room and explained the surgery day step-by-step. She made such an impact on my surgery experience.”

After tossing and turning all night, Allie returned to the Shreveport hospital for surgery early the next morning. She remembers the kind and caring medical staff greeting her with a personalized bedazzled hospital gown and warm smiles. “I remember already feeling taken care of even before my procedure occurred,” she said.

Things were no different following Allie’s surgery, as the Shreveport nurses and staff made sure her recovery was as comfortable as possible. She said that the most intimidating part of her recovery was walking for the first time following surgery, but “no matter what, the nurses were there.”

“Having spinal fusion surgery is not something anyone would ever want to go through,” Allie said. However, she said she is now grateful for her journey. “Shriners Children’s Shreveport gave me back the confidence that scoliosis tried to take away from me,” she said.

Today, Allie is a college junior majoring in biochemistry with a minor in psychology. After college, she wants to go to medical school and become a pediatrician. She hopes to provide the same level of care and impact to children’s lives that she received at Shriners Children’s Shreveport.

Allie’s Journey Through Scoliosis Care

Inspired by the compassionate care of her medical team, Allie is now pursuing a career in pediatrics.

Allie in hospital bed before spinal fusion surgery

Dressed in a surgical cap and gown, Allie prepares for spinal fusion surgery.

Allie and mom before spinal fusion surgery

With her mother standing bedside, Allie smiles prior to undergoing surgery.

Allie gives thumbs up after spinal fusion surgery

Allie gives a smiling thumbs up from her bed as she recovers from surgery.

Allie, scoliosis patient

Now a junior in college, Allie credits her Shriners Children’s medical team with helping inspire her desire to enter the medical profession as a pediatrician.

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