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spinal patient Katie


28 Aug 2019, 11:28 a.m.

‘I was excited for the surgery. It was a bit scary but I knew it was going to change my life forever. I’d be able to walk without aches and pains and join in activities at school again.’

patient Katie w. spinal surgeon

Katie with her surgeon, Mr Neil Upadhyay

14-year-old Katie was born with a rare spinal deformation. The bones that make up her spine hadn’t fully formed in the womb, which caused her spine to grow into an abnormal position.

However, like others with this condition, Katie didn’t experience any symptoms for years. It was only when she reached adolescence that that her spine began to deform and severely impact her life. Walking became painful and was only possible for short periods of time. She couldn’t join in with sports at school, and suffered from constant aches and pains. Critically, her condition was putting a dangerous amount of strain on her spinal cord.

katie - spine x-ray

After numerous reviews with the Spinal Surgery Team at Bristol Children’s Hospital, Katie was booked in for a major operation to correct her spinal curvature. In the surgery, the little bones causing the curvature would be taken out and replaced with pieces of metal which would straighten and support Katie’s spine.

patient Katie M x-rays

This complex surgery needed 10 experts and lasted for around 11 hours.

When the day of the operation finally came Katie and her family were overwhelmed with a mixture of apprehension, hope and excitement for Katie’s next chapter. Mum and Dad watched on, their stomachs in knots, as their daughter was wheeled off to surgery.

After an agonising 11 hour wait in Bristol, Katie’s mum received a call from the Spinal Team to say Katie was awake.

When she woke from the operation, the first thing she was asked to do was move her legs. Katie moved both her legs well. This was the immediate sign that the surgery had been a success. It is only when the surgeons know the spinal cord is fine after the operation that the theatre team can stand down.

katie spinal

Just three days after her surgery Katie was up and walking again. As the days went on, she was kept under close supervision and on day seven, she was able to go home.

patient katie with her sister

Now, almost a year since the operation, Katie is thriving and has made incredible progress. She can stand up straight, walk without pain and is even playing sports at school.

The team in Bristol will continue to see Katie and get up to date X-Rays on her back for the next two years to make sure it continues to grow normally. The metalwork in Katie’s back will stay in for the rest of her life, so she won’t need any further operations.

Amanda Hannaway - Orthopaedic Theatre Practitioner Amanda Hannaway - Orthopaedic Theatre Practitioner

The Spinal Surgery Team

Meet the amazing team that treated Katie

Find out more