Smiling again — girl who had life-changing surgery


An 11-year-old girl has spoken of her joy after groundbreaking surgery corrected her severe scoliosis.

Mackenzie Shoob has returned to Britain from Philadelphia with her parents Karen and Andrew after she spent seven weeks recuperating from the operation.

She said: “I feel better than I did before. When I stand up, I don’t get a lot of pain anymore.

“I am really glad my mum and dad took me to America for this operation.”

The schoolgirl’s plight featured in the JC in December . Her mother described how Mackenzie was suffering from severe curvature of the spine.

While scoliosis can begin with a curve of between 15 to 20 degrees, Mackenzie had a 65 degree curve to her top spine, causing her chronic back pain.

Mackenzie’s parents decided that, instead of her undergoing corrective surgery in the UK, which would involve inserting metal rods into her spine, the family would travel to Philadelphia, where children’s charity hospital Shriners carried out a £150,000 procedure for free.

The operation, known as vertebral bodily tethering, involved attaching screws to each vertebrae and then tethering them with a cord, which was then pulled to straighten the spine.

“The surgeons were really pleased with how it went,” said Hertfordshire-based Mrs Shoob. “They corrected her spine to between 25 and 30 degrees – the reason being that, hopefully, as she grows she will continue to straighten.”

Mackenzie’s parents stayed with her in the US while her two older siblings remained at home in Britain.

The first days after the surgery were the most challenging, Mrs Shoob said.

“She was very unhappy, and we couldn’t get a smile at all. She had four IV drips, and was on morphine so felt very sick. Her lung had been collapsed for the surgery, so just being able to walk was quite hard for her and even laughing hurt.

“But the trick to the healing was to get her up and walking as much as possible. On the first day, we walked around the hospital ward a few times, and every day walked a little more.”

After Mackenzie was discharged from hospital, the family committed to a routine in Philadelphia to aid her recovery.

“Because they collapsed her lung, she needed fresh air to make her lung strong again,” Mrs Shoob said. “We would take her out for a walk for as far as she could go, and then she would be in a wheelchair for the rest of the day. Every afternoon, we would then go back to the hotel, where she would sleep or rest, before having dinner.”

Mackenzie, who celebrated her 11th birthday while she was away, was able to keep in touch with her classmates in year six at Clore Shalom in Hertfordshire using FaceTime.
She is due to return to school in the coming weeks but is still not allowed to bend, lift or twist.

Mrs Shoob said: “She has just started wearing a night brace, which is very uncomfortable for her. It will take some getting used to, but it is like an insurance policy to make sure she won’t end up having to have another operation.”

The Shoob family is now raising money for the hospital, whose staff will continue to care for Mackenzie with annual check-ups until she is 21.

So far, they have raised more than £7,000, and Mr and Mrs Shoob are planning to privately contribute another £10,000 themselves. Mrs Shoob will also be doing a sponsored tandem plane jump in June with her eldest daughter.

“I cannot thank Shriners enough,” she said. “We walked in there and they did this amazing operation without asking for a penny. They could not have treated Mackenzie more like a princess.”

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