Sunday 17 November 2019

'I was on waiting list until charity arranged surgery to save me from scoliosis'

Maria Doyle (18) from Roundwood, Co Wicklow, was only 11 years old when her mother, Mary, spotted a curve in her back in a clothes shop changing room. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Maria Doyle (18) from Roundwood, Co Wicklow, was only 11 years old when her mother, Mary, spotted a curve in her back in a clothes shop changing room. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

A TEENAGER received life-changing scoliosis surgery thanks to pro-bono work by a surgeon and a charity set up due to inaction on waiting lists.

Maria Doyle (18) from Roundwood, Co Wicklow, was only 11-years-old, when her mother, Mary, spotted a curve in her back, when they were in a clothes shop changing room.

As the months passed, Maria’s condition - idiopathic scoliosis - worsened and the curvature of the spine went from 50 degrees, to 110 degrees.

The schoolgirl was forced to stop playing sport, even though she had been a talented gymnast, as her lungs and heart were compressed by her squeezed rib cage.

She said that suddenly she was faced with unwanted intrigue from peers and was finding it hard to walk even short distances and every day became a stress.

Maria said that she constantly wondered when she would be taken off the waiting list and receive treatment.

“I used to wonder how bad it would get before I’d get help,” she said.

“Scoliosis had completely taken over my life. It was life-limiting. I was constantly going to hospital appointments, wondering how much I had deteriorated.”

“My lungs were so squashed, I was like an old woman and at the age of 12, you’re already insecure about how you look, without everyone looking at a lump down your back.”

But thanks to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital’s staff and surgeon, Pat Kiely, Maria was referred to the Straight Ahead charity - founded in 2011 - to help children in serious need of an orthopaedic procedure.

Just before her 13th birthday, Maria underwent an eight-hour operation to straighten her spine.

Mr Kiely and staff carried out the procedure during the Christmas holidays, on a pro bono basis, on January 3, 2013 and Maria’s life was to change for the better, almost instantly.

“It was a defining moment,” Maria told the Irish Independent. “But if I hadn’t been helped by the charity, Mr Kiely and his team, I don’t know how long I’d have been waiting and I would've been getting a lot worse.”

Because Maria is so thankful for the assistance she received, she's also more than aware others are not so lucky.

“It’s scary to think of how many children are still stuck in the place I was in,” she said. 

“I feel so sorry for children who are still waiting because this is such a vital operation.

The student is sitting her Leaving Cert at The Avondale Community College hopes to study at Maynooth University.

Straight Ahead is a medical support group affiliated to the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation (CMRF), which provides surgery, support and medical equipment for children with orthopaedic conditions.

To date the charity has taken over 125 children off HSE waiting lists and completed surgery for the children – but the charity hopes that it won’t be around forever.

"Our hope is that Straight Ahead won’t have to exist in its current form in two years time,” said Chairman and Co-Founder, Straight Ahead. “ We understand that the government and HSE are putting structures in place where children with orthopaedic conditions on waiting lists get the treatment they need, when they need it. However, this situation could still take another two to three years to be fixed.

“In the interim Straight Ahead will do what we can to ensure children with orthopaedic deformities and their families do not suffer because of this.”

For more information visit

Irish Independent

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