CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Rayeann Deriemacker was just a kindergartener when her pediatrician first noticed signs of scoliosis.
“Rayeann was 5 years old and we were doing her well visit with her pediatrician,” said her mother, Michelle Deriemacker. “And he said, ‘I really think there’s a chance here that she has scoliosis.'”
Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve abnormally sideways, in an “S” or “C” shape. There are varying degrees of severity, but noticing the warning signs is the critical first step.
“Her curve was about 35 degrees, so it was already pretty severe,” Deriemacker said.
In some children, doctors may simply watch the spine as they grow.
Others, as in Rayeann’s case, will need a brace to stop or slow the progression. She admits that it was challenging at times.
“It’s like hard plastic around your whole body. It’s very uncomfortable,” Rayeann said. “It was pretty hard because of the braces on my back and wearing it to school and sleeping in it and all day every day.”
But Rayeann didn’t let that stop her from leading an active life, even competing in dance for several years.
“His curve still progressed, but it progressed more slowly. So when she had to have the surgery, she was in a 75-degree bend and it was starting to affect her lungs and her breathing,” Deriemacker said.
Dr. Ahmed Bazi is Rayeann’s surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
“All the braces she had had bought her time, so when she was ready for surgery, it was really a one-time surgery,” Bazi said.
When Rayeann was 11 years old, she underwent a spinal fusion.
“It was a very intense moment before the surgery,” said Deriemacker. “And then during the surgery, we just held our breath and prayed and had faith in Dr. Bazi.”
“Very scared,” Rayeann said. “I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to go and do all the things my friends did. I was going to be left out and stop feeling included.”
Rayeann, now 14, says her family and good friends helped her through the long months of recovery.
“My only friend FaceTimed me every day during lunch at school, so I could still see everyone and talk to everyone,” he said.
Rayeann can no longer dance like she used to, but she has a newfound love for volleyball and a deep appreciation for all that she has overcome. That includes the scar that runs down her back.
“A lot of people notice it, and some people ask questions, which I don’t mind telling them,” Rayeann said. “I feel like it’s more like a sign that I was able to do that, and just remember it. It’s great.”
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Deriemacker said. “It’s going to make me cry. She has done great. He gave her such a gift. He is incredible. She is amazing to go through recovery. It was very hard”.
Scoliosis can affect all ages, but the most common age of onset is between the ages of 10 and 15, when children grow rapidly.
Bazi said there are usually no symptoms, so it’s important to watch for signs.
“If you’re looking for signs of scoliosis, this is usually the season or time to look at it,” Bazi said. “This is where the boys and girls are in bathing suits or outside or playing in the sprinkler and you can finally see their backs. So we look for signs like uneven shoulders, a raised shoulder blade, a hump in the ribs, if you will, your hips or your sides are uneven or basically tilted to one side or the other, or sometimes even your pelvis is a little uneven. . ”
There is concern that many cases of scoliosis may have been missed during the pandemic, when fewer children were seeing their pediatricians for well-child visits. Experts say this also highlights the importance of continuing yearly visits once kids are tweens or teens.
Rayeann’s mother hopes her story will raise awareness of scoliosis.
“Hopefully through his history someone can catch him early and he may not have to end up with spinal fusion,” Deriemacker said.
Rayeann hopes that sharing her experience can help encourage children to face the challenges of scoliosis.
“Looking back to when I had to have the surgery, there really wasn’t anything I could look up on YouTube or anything on social media,” Rayeann said. “Being able to show young children that it’s okay and that it’s something they can do.”
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