PHOENIX — It’s a medical condition that affects more than three million Americans per year. Scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine is painful both physically and emotionally.
“It impacted the way I was breathing, and I would have a lot of back pain. I couldn’t really deal with the back pain anymore. So, we wanted to start looking for surgeons and see what we could do to fix it," said Valley teenager Gabriella Mercier.
Gabriella Mercier was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was in seventh grade. Her spine was severely twisted with measurements of 18 degrees on the top curve and 22 degrees on the bottom.
Gabriella’s mom Angel worried that wearing a brace would have a major impact on her daughter's self-confidence as she prepared for her first year of junior high school.
The family consulted several doctors.
“The first couple surgeon, they wanted her to be braced for 23 hours,” said Angel.
Then they found Dr. Greg White at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Division Chief of Orthopedics at Phoenix Children’s. They liked him immediately
“First impression, what is that old saying, you had me at hello," said Angel.
“Her curvature was pretty much over the magnitude where she was going to need surgery," said Dr. White.
After a series of x-rays, Dr. White determined that a brace would have only minimal impact because Gabriella was still growing. Instead, he recommended ongoing monitoring of her condition and said she would need surgery if her curve reached 50 degrees.
In September, Gabriella underwent spinal fusion surgery, from her neck to just above her waist. She woke up two inches taller.
Gabriella is now forever grateful for Dr. White and his PCH team, even sending him a Christmas reminder for the difference he and his team made in a year none of us will forget.