SYLACAUGA, Ala. – June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month, a month aimed at raising understanding to a disorder affecting 2-3 percent of the world’s population.
According to the Mayo Clinic, scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. The curve is usually either “S” or “C” shaped. The “S” curve is the most common. Many people have scoliosis and do not realize it. There are many different forms, and around one in seven children have it.
Scoliosis is often a hereditary disorder. The deformity of the spine has affected many locally including Mandy Reams and her son JC. Mandy’s sisters, father, and grandfather have also suffered from scoliosis.
“I think if more people did the genetic testing, more people would realize they have it,” said Mandy.” If you look, you can see the features in other people. Most people say its idiopathic, meaning they don’t know what caused it, but I think more people would find it is genetic if genetic testing was more common.”
Mandy is correct. Most specialists do say scoliosis is idiopathic, but some believe it is indeed congenital or neuromuscular.
JC Reams has a severe and rare form of scoliosis called Brachyolmia Type 3. Unfortunately, JC was misdiagnosed early on, prolonging proper treatment, until he met with a geneticist.
This time last year, JC was in Delaware having surgery to correct his spine. When he went for a consultation in December 2016 at Nemours, they met with Dr. McKenzie, an orthopedist. JC’s spine was at a curve of 100 degrees. Dr. McKenzie warned the family not to get their hopes up for a full recovery, but said the surgery would help JC have a more productive life.
The first surgery was May 23, 2017, where he had an anterior thoracoscopic release and a halo installation. He was in the halo for three weeks in order to get the desired spinal cord correction. The second surgery took place June 14, 2017, JC had a posterior spinal fusion from his third lumbar vertebrae to his third thoracic vertebrae.
The improvement for JC was miraculous. Today, his spine is at a curve of 45 degrees. He also gained four inches in height from the surgery. Mandy said this is a huge change for JC, not only as far as what he can do physically, but also emotionally.
JC said scoliosis is bad for everyone involved, but he has had great experiences because of it. “I got to meet a lot of great people while I was in Delaware. It really gives you another angle in life. I have a severe degree, so you have that angle of not being able to do something, but you try to overcome it anyway.”
JC encourages people to be more aware of how they treat people with scoliosis. “People with scoliosis are mentally equal to everyone else, but you can’t play contact sports. Everyone I have met has overcome stuff like that. You can tell when someone has scoliosis; it’s very obvious their spine is different. You may want to ostracize them because they are different, but try to be open-minded and friendly because it takes a toll on life.”
Mandy said there are just some things people with scoliosis cannot do, and you have to know that you cannot do them. She is a fitness instructor and a dancer, and said she has never let scoliosis stop her.
There are screenings for scoliosis for children at health fairs. “Most people find out they have it at a health fair or their doctor noticing the signs,” said Mandy. “People should be proactive because it is scary. The treatment has become so advanced now, and there are so many wonderful doctors that can help your child. The best saying is bent not broken. Life is a little different, but it is still wonderful. I’ve had it my entire life and I’m a fitness instructor. You just have to be aware that things might be a little different. I’ve never let it affect my life.”