Scoliosis awareness month: It’s more common than you think

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — June is National Scoliosis Awareness month. Scoliosis is the curvature of the spine and it’s more common than many people think. 

Ka’iulani Pagente is a freshman in high school. At first glance, she is like any other active teenager. 

“I play volleyball. I like to draw and color,” Ka’iulani Pagente said. She also loves to dance hula.

However, in September 2018, her doctor noticed something was different with Ka’iulani. 

“Until her physical, when she did bend over and then the doctor asked me to come and look and I could see that her back, like one side was higher than the other. That’s when I realized it was pretty bad at that point already,” said Marissa Pagente, Ka’iulani’s mom. 

Ka’iulani was diagnosed with scoliosis. 

“So her spine is not straight, so that’s why part of her back, one side is higher than the other. Also, her shoulders, one side is higher than the other,” Marissa Pagente said. 

Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu treats kids with the medical condition, so Marissa took her daughter to see a specialist. 

“So when she started in September 2018, she was at 28°.  The last x-ray was at the beginning of this month and it’s at 34°,” Ka’iulani’s mom said about her curvature. 

Ken Mandler is the orthotics and prosthetics manager at Shriners Hospital for Children. He said most patients with scoliosis are girls, and a lot of times their parents have it too. 

“Our job as an orthotist is to prevent that surgery from occurring, so we try and catch children as young as possible, and when the curve is as small as possible,” Mandler said. 

Often times, doctors will recommend patients like Ka’iulani to wear a brace until they stop growing. 

“There is no one that wants to wear a brace, but then the alternative down the road is possibly surgery,” Mandler said about the importance of scoliosis patients wearing a brace. 

The word “brace” can be difficult to hear as a teenager. 

“I was not comfortable. I was actually really scared because I thought people would tease me,” Ka’iulani said. 

“In 7th grade it’s hard. They’re still trying to find themselves. So for her to try and find herself and have to wear this, she’s already worried,” Ka’iulani’s mom said. “She was OK up until she picked up the brace,” her mom explained. “She actually cried a lot.”

However, Ka’iulani learned she wasn’t alone and her friends were supportive. 

In fact, according to the National Scoliosis Foundation, it affects 2-3% of the population.

Ka’iulani wears her brace 18 hours a day. She still dances and plays volleyball. Now she wants to send a message to others just like her. 

“Just be willing to try things, and don’t be afraid of anything. Just think positive. Always positive.”

Ka’iulani and her mom plan on starting a scoliosis support group in the near future.

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