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Young Athlete's Recovery Going Swimmingly

Twelve-Year-Old Boca Raton Swimmer Competes Again After
Scoliosis Surgery

Becca is all smiles after innovative back surgery

Updated September 2008 — Becca was diagnosed with scoliosis in fourth grade after her pediatrician discovered the lateral curvature of her spine during a routine checkup. "Becca was never in pain," her mother, Lauren, says. "You never would have known there was a problem." Lauren took Becca to an orthopedic surgeon who prescribed a brace, which Becca wore for three years, taking it off only for swimming, the sport she's so passionate about. Becca, a competitive swimmer, counts eight Florida Gold Coast swimming medals among her accolades and last year became the youngest entrant in the Florida Keys Community College 12.5 mile race around Key West. She took first place.

Despite her athletic accomplishments, by sixth grade her spinal curvature was more severe and eventually could have affected her internal organs. Lauren took Becca to Michael Jofe, MD, pediatric orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Memorial Hospital West and Memorial Hospital Miramar. He recommended posterior spinal fusion.

Although the surgery is about 50 years old, Dr. Jofe explains, more recent instrumentation called pedicle screw fixation offers patients increased correction and a quicker recovery. Rather than hooks and wires, screws are placed into every vertebra and attached to rods, allowing for increased correction of every component of the spine.

"He explained that the longer we waited, the longer the rods would have to be and the more flexibility she would lose," Lauren says. "As an athlete, we didn't want her to lose flexibility."

In January 2006, Becca underwent surgery at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. Lauren says the anesthesiologist updated her regularly and the nurses who cared for Becca during her four-day hospital stay were incredible. "In the beginning it's scary," Lauren says. "They did everything for her. They were wonderful and explained exactly what would happen. There were no surprises."

Best of all, Lauren could remain at Becca's side since the hospital offered a free lunch and she could shower at the Conine Clubhouse, a free-of-charge, home-away-from-home for families with hospitalized loved ones. "They think of everything," she says. "The whole experience was wonderful."

Becca agrees. "I was back in the water after two weeks," she says. As a bonus, she was three inches taller, a result of the surgery, and got a new wardrobe. "She was really remarkable in her will to get better," Dr. Jofe says. In fact, she entered the Key West swim race again in June, just six months after her surgery. "Not only did Becca finish the 12.5 mile swim," Lauren says. "She won it! Her time was 10 minutes faster than last year."

If you have concerns about scoliosis and your child, speak to your physician. For referral to a physician, call
Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Physicians Referral Service toll-free at (866) JDCH-DOC. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.