Spine Surgery to Repair Severe Scoliosis Saves Girl’s Life

Salma Suleman Post-Op Scoliosis

Doctors at an Indianapolis hospital recently performed life-saving spine surgery on a young patient with a severe scoliosis. The NuVasive Spine Foundation in San Diego brought Salma Suleman, 12, to the United States from Kenya so she could undergo the surgery at the Peyton Manning’s Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent. It was a charitable surgery the hospital offered to perform for a little girl who desperately needed it.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine is curved abnormally. It usually occurs during a child’s growth spurt before puberty. Muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy can also cause scoliosis, but most times there is no known cause. Most cases are mild, but some children, like Salma, develop severe cases that can become disabling and life-threatening as the child gets older. Salma’s scoliosis made it difficult for her to walk more than 10 feet at a time. The severe curvature of her spine threatened to crush her heart and lungs.

Salma Suleman Pre-Op Scoliosis

“Her curve was so severe, when you looked at her from behind, her shoulder blade was actually touching her hip,” said surgeon Dr. David Schwartz with OrthoIndy. Schwartz said that Salma’s case was the worst he’d seen in his 17 years of practice.

“We operate on children when their curves are 45 or 50 degrees. We put them in braces when they’re 25 or 30 degrees,” he said. “She’s 12 years old, and her curve was 170 degrees.”

an image of Salma's spine before surgery

The risky procedure to realign her spine took 12 hours. But within three weeks, Salma was able to stand upright, lift her arms and walk without pain. She now has a new outlook on life, thanks to Dr. Schwartz.

“I feel happy,” she said. “I was losing my hope, but he’s brought my hope back.”

On her release from the hospital, Salma will stay in San Diego for a month while she undergoes rehab. Then she will return home to Nairobi, Kenya, where Dr. Schwartz plans to visit her. Salma now hopes to be a surgeon someday so she can help children the way Dr. Schwartz helped her.


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5 thoughts on “Spine Surgery to Repair Severe Scoliosis Saves Girl’s Life

  1. treatingscoliosis@yahoo.com'Treating Scoliosis

    That”s wonderful that the hospital was able to perform this charitable surgery. Living with a condition like that would have been a struggle. It”s great to see that she has another chance at living a more normal lifestyle.

  2. nickbarfuss@gmail.com'Nick

    Salma is so beautiful. The surgeons are so kind. The family is so brave. What a great article and great documentation of the process and event.

  3. salmayshum@gmail.com'Sally

    Wow, how inspiring! With a 30% chance of paralyzation, this was such a success! The emotion captured on this video was so realistic. To see her mother’s hope and Salma’s success in walking after the surgery was wonderful. I am glad there is people willing to provide this service! This video helped me better understand my niece’s predicament. Her surgery, very similar to this, is being scheduled soon. With the same hope, the same chance of success and unfortunately the same risk of failure. We hope and pray that like Salma she will be smiling and walking! Thank you for this video, and for the people who put in the time, money, and expertise to save Salma!

  4. sinia_antunez@hotmail.com'Sinia antunez

    I’m very happy for this young lady, Godbless her .. I have severe scoliosis and I’m 26 years old I’m from Honduras and I live in Florida United States since I was 14 years old, since than I been trying to get a surgery to fix my conition of scoliosis before I didn’t had the opportunity to get help because I didn’t had the insurance to pay for my surgery, now I have insurance and I’m just searching for a doctor who can help me to get my surgery done 🙁 that’s my bigges wish and it would be my dream come true…. I have 140 degrees curve on my spine for my scoliosis I don’t want to get worse I really need someone to help me my phone number is (407) 780-9437… Thank you so much.

  5. Kirbykub@hotmail.com'Karrie

    Thank you for sharing this story and for letting the world meet Salma. What a beautiful and amazing strong young lady. As a mother of an 8 year old little girl with the first of 3 surgeries scheduled January 29/2015, this Video has made my decision to go ahead with surgery a much happier one.
    My daughter suffers from quad spastic cerebral palsy and with her last 2 growth spurts her curve has become extream and she is in a world of pain. We know we are in for a long road ahead but seeing the smile on Salma’s beautiful face will get us through my daughter recovery. A message to the doctors: Thank you for your many years learning to correct the conditions that Plague children all over the world without your expertise our children would only suffer. My family is very fortunate to live in a country that has health care, so my hat off to all the doctors all over our amazing planet that do surgeries for all children regardless of the economic status.
    Thank you for letting me voice my opinion and also for letting us in to witness this darlings transformation. All the best to you Salma and hope for a long heathy pain free life ahead.

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