Two years ago, during an annual physical prior to entering fourth grade, David’s pediatrician noticed a curve in his back. He ordered tests that confirmed David had juvenile idiopathic scoliosis, and immediately referred the family to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield.
David came to the hospital’s outpatient department where he was seen by a specialist in the scoliosis clinic. The specialist ordered an X-ray, and the medical assistant walked with him over to radiology. There he stepped into the hospital’s EOS® device, the first ultra-low-dose X-ray imaging system in Western Massachusetts that takes an X-ray in 30 seconds, and delivers up to 91 percent less radiation than traditional X-rays. “EOS – whoosh – done,” said an excited David after his X-ray.
A few minutes later, back in the exam room, the X-ray revealed a 22-degree curve. To prevent the curve from progressing, David was given a prescription for a back brace and physical therapy. That same day, he walked across the waiting room to the Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services (POPS) – Northeast, LLC, department.
In the POPS department, David was measured for a Boston brace, which he would have to wear for 20 hours each day. Following his visit to POPS, David then headed to the rehabilitation department on the second floor, where he was scheduled for physical therapy appointments for the next 12 weeks.
Receiving a brace and scheduling therapy had a tremendous emotional impact on 9-year-old David, who asked his physical therapist why he had to wear a brace and do exercises. Yvette, his physical therapist, explained how the brace would hopefully slow the curve from getting worse as he grew. He was taught how to strengthen the muscles in his back and abdomen, which help to keep the spine straight. David was also given a book about a girl with a back brace to help him further understand the need for bracing and physical therapy.
David read the book and wrote a report on it for school, which led to an outpouring of support from faculty and his fellow classmates. At a recent soccer game, David was tending goal when a ball hit his belly and bounced off. The opposing team player feared that David was hurt. He revealed his brace and said, “It bounced off me like Ironman.” From then on everyone called him Ironman!
He is now 9 years old, and because of his commitment to wearing his brace and doing strengthening exercises every day, David’s curve is only 9 degrees. He no longer has to wear the brace, but continues to do his daily exercises. Staff at the Springfield Shriners Hospital will continue to monitor David’s spine every six weeks.
Shriners Hospitals for Children offers a free app, SpineScreen, which is an educational tool to help parents check their child’s spine for possible signs of scoliosis. The SpineScreen app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play.